The year 2018 was the deadliest in modern American history when it comes to school shootings. It was also the year a tiny theater company of teen actors in Dallas set out to create an original stage play about our deep divisions over Second Amendment rights, mass shootings, background checks and automatic weapons. Americans are either pro-gun or anti-gun – at least that’s how the issues get framed. But these arguments aren’t actually binary.
In Gun Play, a five-part podcast series co-produced by KERA and Guns & America, hosts Hady Mawajdeh and Jerome Weeks follow Cry Havoc Theater Company as the teenagers travel across the country to talk to folks on all sides of the debate, from a mom still wrestling with her daughter’s suicide to the owner of a gun range, on a journey that takes them from the snows of Sandy Hook, Connecticut, to the steps of the U.S. Capitol and the floor of the national NRA convention. These young actors, some from streets plagued by violence, provide a window into an issue that tears at the nation.
'This Isn’t A Disney Musical'
Recent studies have tied gun ownership to the startling high rates of teen suicides in the U.S. In this episode, we meet some of the Cry Havoc actors as they conduct their first interviews about gun violence — self-directed gun violence. We learn they have skin in this game: One cast member has lost a friend to suicide. To the actor’s surprise, that heartbreaking trauma becomes part of their play.
'Take The Bad Guys' Guns Away'
Finding gun owners willing to share their opinions on guns has proved difficult for Cry Havoc — that is, until they visit a gun range. But their visit happens in the wake of the Parkland shooting in Florida, and that event shakes the actors’ ability to be unbiased. Plus, they head to Connecticut for a heartbreaking visit with the parents of two children who died in the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.
'It's A Battle We're In'
Cry Havoc’s actors visit Washington, D.C., to interview politicians and lobbyists about firearms legislation. They talk with Texas Senator John Cornyn about his Fix NICS Act , and then return to Dallas for the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting. They hear President Trump address the NRA — but are taken aback by Sen. Cornyn’s fiery speech. Then their visit with the NRA is abruptly stopped.
'Mrs. Clements, Your Legs Are Shaking'
Their interviews done, the actors get down to shaping and staging their new play, Babel . But repeatedly rehearsing real-life traumas is wearing them down. The sold-out crowds applaud them. But — is Babel “fair”? Can the actors even be objective — after parents told them, in person, how their own children were shot to death? Finally, several Black students offer their sobering view of gun violence.
'What Breaks My Heart The Most'
Babel is done. The student actors of Cry Havoc Theatre Company sold out every performance of their play. And their show was lauded in the region. But it’s been two years. Gun violence hasn’t declined, and gun sales are soaring amid a global health crisis. We talk to the performers and ask them what they think about guns today.
Introducing Gun Play
The year 2018 was the bloodiest year in American history for school shootings. Purely by coincidence, a tiny theater company of teen actors in Dallas set out to create an original stage play about some of our many arguments over Second Amendment rights, mass shootings, background checks and automatic weapons.
In this five-part series, hosts Hady Mawajdeh and Jerome Weeks follow Cry Havoc Theater Company as its student actors research these topics and craft their play - and help us gain some insights into why these issues continue to tear at our nation.
As someone who saw the show when it was performed, it’s amazing to hear behind the scenes footage as Cry Havoc built this production from the ground up. Our young people are capable of so much if given the space to explore the edges of their potential. Thanks for telling this story so artfully!
I love it, because I made it! Tell us what you think!