Last semester, 21 students of Professor Joanne Gilbert’s Performing Advocacy class, in collaboration with Professor Gilbert, created a script based on interviews they conducted, original creative work, and research.
The result of their work is a script, entitled “Gunplay,” which seeks to explore the vast and varied dialogue surrounding guns and gun violence in the U.S. Now, after an entire semester of hard work, those students have the rare opportunity of seeing their show performed on stage—some of them even get to perform in it.
“It’s a daunting process for 21 students to create a script collaboratively,” said Gilbert, “Focusing on the causes and consequences of gun violence in the U.S., students interviewed campus and community members, located statistical data, and created original characters/scenes, ultimately, weaving these materials into a script. The students found the process both logistically challenging and conceptually rewarding. I am extremely proud of the work they did.”
The show premieres on February 13th and will run until the 16th. The showtimes are 7:30 PM Thursday-Saturday and 2:30 on Sunday. It features 11 actors, 2 of whom are students from the Performing Advocacy class who worked on the original script.
“I’m excited but also really nervous,” said Noor Hassan-Contreras (‘23), one of the actors who helped create the script, “I’ve been in theatrical productions before, and it’s always kind of nerve-wracking, but this one is different because I’ve put so much into it, and so it feels especially vulnerable.”
Oftentimes discussions about gun violence can feel disconnected, as if they are about problems that plague somebody else, and not ourselves; however, tragedies such as the Columbine High School massacre and, more recently, the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, remind students that gun violence is a very real fear.
“Gun violence has reached epidemic proportions in this country,” said Gilbert, “According to the CDC, 100 people are killed every day by guns in the U.S.—that’s over 36,000 people a year.”
The CDC also reported that 2017 showed the highest rate of gun deaths in the U.S. in the past two decades.
Public awareness about school shootings has grown, which means schools are taking more precautions to prevent similar tragedies, but it also means that students everywhere are forced to reckon with the possibility of similar events happening in their own schools.
“As students, we’ve all thought about what it would be like if there was a shooter on campus,” said Hassan-Contreras.
Even as schools increase security, students’ fears are validated. During every lock-down drill, the uneasy feeling that a school shooting is just around the corner lurks in the back of many students’ minds.
However, the story isn’t dominated by just the students’ perspectives. One of the goals of the show was to dive into the numerous ways that gun violence can affect people, especially in the Alma community, and tell the stories of people who don’t often get their stories told.
“It’s usually school shootings [that people talk about]—which we do cover—but we also talk about violence against people of color, and suicide and self-harm,” said Elizabeth Pechota (‘22), “There’s essentially 4 or 5 storylines and each one “Gunplay”: the effect of gun violence on Alma addresses a different topic.”
Gunplay touches on these issues and more, from the different perspectives of all the students who worked on it and from the people they interviewed in the community.
“A lot of the quotes in the play were taken from community members,” said Pechota, “It’s really reflective of our community.”
The purpose of Gunplay is to provide a unique opportunity for Alma students and community members to join in on a large dialogue with their peers and deepen their understanding of issues that affect us all.