May 5, 2022 Blog
#ENOUGH: Plays to End Gun Violence
The arts have always been a place both to inspire and seek inspiration. On April 20th, 2022–the 23rd anniversary of the Columbine shooting–we held a nationwide reading to do just that. With the help of some amazing youth actors, the Alliance for Gun Responsibility Foundation joined with over 50 organizations across 26 states to draw attention to the gun violence epidemic with a powerful program, #ENOUGH: Plays to End Gun Violence.
For the program, #ENOUGH selected eight short new theatrical works by young writers from across the country that was presented in a ground-breaking series of simultaneously staged readings in multiple cities on the same evening. This event was youth-centered and youth-led, not to mention high schoolers wrote every script. The Alliance was proud to join team #Enough as a Washington State partner to produce a reading at the fantastic Town Hall Seattle.
When I found out about this event, I knew immediately that I wanted to be a part of it. As a thespian and community activist, this project allowed me to blend two of my passions for an evening of ‘Artivism.’ The arts have always been a vehicle for change, whether during the civil rights movement or the many unique and inspirational Black Lives Matter murals during 2020. I was excited about what could happen together with our young theater community using this same power of artistic expression for gun violence prevention.
My favorite part of this project was working with so many talented young people. I had the pleasure of working with 16 youth as young as 11 years old up to college age. Having so many different youths of different ages and experiences was a beautiful thing to blend. It was even more inspirational, given that 90% of this project was organized entirely virtual.
The day of the show–the first day we all actually met in person–was, both busy with show day tasks and also a beautiful memory. As all the youth started arriving, I lovingly tossed them all in a room and then let them be, to become an ensemble together. No advice on how to do it other than to do it!
My favorite thing about theatre kids is their personalities and their adaptability. Each time I came into the room, they were bonding through a new activity, song, or just by introducing themselves. Their chemistry was amazing, and I knew it would also shine on the stage. As we all got closer to showtime, we lined up backstage for one last run-through of a task and a quick pep talk. I thanked them for their participation and told them how much it meant to our organization. I also shared how important it was that they were here. I reminded them that this moment was bigger than us, bigger than our location–that hundreds of kids across the country were joining them tonight to use their voices for a safer future.
That evening I sat in the audience and watched so many talented young people use their gifts to say “enough” to gun violence and the loss of lives. I’m so thankful for their time, their commitment, and the heart they gave to this project. One day soon, I hope these same youth can gather again to enjoy each other’s company and not to have to demand their lives be spared at the hands of senseless gun violence. This certainly is not our last time to display ‘artivism’ on the stage, and I look forward to many more communities joining us next time.
– Tremayne Edwards is Education and Engagement Director at the Alliance