Yesterday, at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX, we witnessed another horrific mass shooting with 21 dead, including 19 elementary school kids. This mass shooting occurs only 9 days after the shooting at the Taiwanese congregation in Laguna Woods, CA; 10 days after the white supremacist terrorism in Buffalo, NY; 11 days after more than a dozen were wounded by gunfire in Milwaukee, WI; and nearly 10 years after the deadliest school shooting in our country’s history at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT.
Our hearts go out to the grieving families, and we wanted to share tangible ways to support them, because we’re long past the time where “thoughts and prayers” are enough. Words like unbearable and unimaginable fall short in a country where this kind of violence is the norm. There were more than 1.5 million U.S. gun deaths between 1968 and 2017, a number which exceeds the number of soldiers killed in every U.S. conflict. The U.S. ratio of 120.5 firearms per 100 residents exceeds that of every other country, and U.S. citizens are more than three times as likely to die by gun than the global average. “Active shooter” attacks are rising, as is the gun violence experienced by children. Gun violence falls disportionately hard on Black communities, especially young Black men, for whom it is the leading cause of death. Gun violence also disproportionately impacts women facing domestic violence. Gun violence is not only amplified by white supremacy and misogyny, but is inextricably linked to slavery and genocide. In the aftermath, disinformation campaigns often cause further harm, as they did after Sandy Hook and has already happened with Robb Elementary School.
Yet we know theatre-makers have not been silent amid this onslaught of violence. After Sandy Hook, Caridad Svich co-led a Gun Control Theatre Action and Molly Smith co-led the March on Washington for Gun Control. After the Pulse nightclub shooting, Orlando Shakespeare Theater started the “Angel Wing Project” to protect mourners, and TCG Conference attendees joined Representative John Lewis for a sit-in on the House floor. Michael Cotey organized #ENOUGH: Plays to End Gun Violence after the Parkland shooting. Claudia Alick co-led The Every 28 Hours Plays to respond to the police murders of Black people. And many theatres, especially Black Theatres, Indigenous Theatres, and Theatres of Color, have long invested in the generational work of healing with the communities most impacted. This can’t be a comprehensive list, because so many of you have refused silence and complicity with a culture that considers this level of gun violence acceptable.
Yet so much more must be done, and there is no single solution. As theatre-makers, we have power to change the narratives of violence that are so deeply rooted in our country, but we shouldn’t stop there. It will also take protest, direct action, civil disobedience, issues advocacy, getting out the vote, education, and, above all, uprooting the systems of violence upon which our country was founded. Each of us can start or continue from wherever we are, and know that we are needed. And each of us can take the time we need to grieve, to breathe, to rest, and then, when we’re ready, to return to this work. Those who would stand in the way of change are counting on us becoming overwhelmed, distracted, and exhausted, so please take care of yourself and those closest to you.
Then, let’s use the power we have as people, as theatre-makers, and as a theatre movement, to help end this scourge of gun violence.
Teresa Eyring & Adrian Budhu
Organizations working to end gun violence: