Last year, Cry Havoc, the high school theater company founded and directed by Mara Richards Bim, devised an impressive, documentary stage show, ‘Shots Fired,’ about the deadly July 7th police shooting in Dallas. Before ‘Standoff,’ the incredible special section by Jamie Thompson that the ‘Dallas Morning News’ published in February, ‘Shots Fired’ was perhaps the most affecting summary of the events of that evening — with Bim’s high school students performing interviews they did with Black Lives Matter protestors, surviving family members, police officers and a trauma surgeon. Collaborating to create a script from real-life interviews is often called “devised” theater or “verbatim” theater, and perhaps the most famous example is ‘The Laramie Project’ about Matthew Shepard’s murder — directed by Moises Kaufman, who’s in residence this year at UNT.
No, this isn’t another student response to the Parkland school shooting — but it may well become one. It’s been in the works for eight months or so already. Bim says that experience with ‘Shots Fired’ only made her students want to delve more deeply and widely into gun violence — partly because, during those interviews, questions about gun control, the Second Amendment, mental illness and concealed carry kept coming up, and they all got sidelined because the drama had to focus on just the Events Of That Day.
So for a new stage work — tentatively titled ‘Babel’ to be staged this July as part of the AT&T PAC’s ‘Elevator Project’ — Bim has unleashed her eleven theater students on the entire spread of American firearms violence: domestic abuse to mass shootings to suicides (which generally aren’t even included in the totals for gun-related deaths). They’ve spent the past several weekends interviewing people on all sides of the issues, including the Texas chair of the National Survivors Network, a gun owner who was a member of the NRA but quit because of the organization’s radical stands and a visit to Eagle Gun Range (above) and a group talk with its owner, David Prince.
Now, Bim and several of the students have flown to Connecticut to meet with parents of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre — and then on to Washington, D. C. to meet with Texas politicians (tentatively scheduled: a visit with Senator John Cornyn, who’s sponsoring a bipartisan bill on background checks). Traveling with the group is Art & Seek’s Hady Mawajdeh, who’ll be posting on social media about the students’ weeklong investigation.