When the national #HereToo Project presents a workshop performance about gun violence and activism at Penn State on Nov. 14–15, first-year School of Theatre students Mary Rose Valentine and Brian Bond will be part of the cast.
Both Valentine and Bond believe theater is an important tool in discussing serious issues, such as gun violence awareness.
“When you’re watching something live, even if you know rationally it is just a replication, it provokes such an immediate emotional reaction, one that I think film or a really well-written news article can’t quite get,” said Valentine. “It is a really unique art form that goes right for the heart strings and pulls as hard as it can.”
Both theater students have prior experience with acting, but agree they have not participated in any performance similar to the #HereToo Project. Valentine and Bond said this performance allows for a deeply personal connection with their audience, and that this style of performance is as new and innovative as it gets.
The #HereToo Project cultivates stories, media clips and images to help inform the audience about gun violence in a similar style to "The Laramie Project," which used the murder of Matthew Shephard, a young gay man, to draw attention to hate crimes. The goal is to have an interview-based play that depicts the experiences of gun violence activists and survivors across the United States.
Barbara Pitts McAdams and Jimmy Maize, Tectonic Theater Project members and co-creators of the #HereToo Project, have been working with bachelor of arts theater students over the past 10 days to create another installment of the national project surrounding the topic of gun violence.
The project incorporates a wide range of opinions on the topic of gun control. Bond said the experience of bringing together different world views on gun violence and culture is pivotal to understanding the bigger picture.
“Everyone in the class comes from a different background, whether that be gender, sexuality, race, hometown or what their native language is. Seeing everyone’s different perspective on gun violence and being able to put it into one piece has been incredible,” agreed Valentine.
The students said the #HereToo Project is a piece for everyone. Regardless of your political standing, Valentine and Bond urge all Penn State students and community members to come out and learn more about how gun violence is affecting communities across the United States.
“Ultimately what we are doing here is informing the uninformed,” said Bond. “There are people who don’t have their ears open to these topics and the topic of gun violence is one of the biggest issues not only in the United States, but the entire world.”
The performances, free and open to the public, will take place at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14–15, in the Pavilion Theatre. The #HereToo Project residency at Penn State is sponsored by the School of Theatre and the Arts and Design Research Incubator.