Working to reduce gun violence by raising awareness and real support, theaters, universities, high schools, and community groups across the country will stage readings of a new play by Lauren Gunderson, Natural Shocks.
In Michigan, Matrix Theatre and Theatre NOVA will join in the National Campaign of Theater Activism Against Gun Violence. Matrix Theatre’s reading will take place on Friday, April 20 at 5:30 p.m.; Theatre NOVA’s will take place on Saturday, April 21 at 2:00 p.m.
With the images from Stoneman Douglas High School fresh in our nation’s collective mind, and millions of voices rising in unison to demand sensible legislation on gun control now, two local professional theatres are joining the cause by taking part in the National Campaign Of Theater Activism Against Gun Violence, taking place across the country April 19-23, 2018.
The timing is intentional: April 20 is the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting and the day of the National School Walkout, organized by the student activists in Parkland, Florida. Professional theaters, universities, high schools, and community groups are pairing their readings with town halls, audience talkbacks, and fundraisers for nonprofits like Everytown For Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action.
Matrix Theatre’s reading will take place on Friday, April 20 at 5:30 p.m., Theatre NOVA’s will take place on Saturday, April 21 at 2:00 p.m. Both readings will feature local professional actress Julia Glander and will be directed by David Wolber. NOVA’s reading will benefit the Washtenaw Chapter of Moms Demand Action, Matrix’s will benefit Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence. Both readings will feature a discussion about gun control issues and a reception with the actor and director.
Modeled after her Inauguration Day project when she made her play The Taming available to theaters for royalty-free readings on January 20, 2017, Lauren Gunderson and her team of producers have coordinated an ambitious national campaign of theater activism against gun violence with royalty-free readings of her new play Natural Shocks taking place across the country. If her name sounds familiar, it is because American Theatre Magazine calculated that she is the most produced playwright in America in the 2017-2018 season. (Last year, she came in second behind August Wilson.) Gunderson has a knack for writing plays that fit well in communities across America, and Natural Shocks is no exception with its one character described as “probably 40 years old, maybe younger, maybe older” who can be “any race, from any region, with any accent.”
Natural Shocks is a classic Gunderson play: funny, inspired by Shakespeare (in this case, Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” speech), featuring a richly-drawn female character, and with an unexpected ending that will stay with you long after you leave the theater. It also happens to be completely of-the-moment, with a storyline all too familiar in 2018: one that is inescapably intertwined with gun violence. In fact, she finished the first draft of the script only two weeks before the Parkland shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. So when that tragic shooting hit the news on Valentine’s Day, she knew she wanted to use the play to drive awareness, conversation and, ultimately, action.
“I was a junior in high school when Columbine happened in 1999 and it spurred me into activism instantly,” Gunderson said. “I was 17, a teenager like all those amazing kids in Parkland who are taking up the cause of their lost classmates and making the biggest difference in this issue I’ve seen in my lifetime.”
It is also not lost on Gunderson that many of the Parkland activists that have emerged to lead the #NeverAgain movement are theatre kids. “Nineteen years later, here we are, another school shooting, but finally a freshly invigorated and seemingly unstoppable movement brewing. Use this play to start conversations, to build networks of support, to gather people and give them some place to go to congregate and say enough. We are the undeniable force of nature that will light up this darkness and change it forever.”
There are more than 80 confirmed readings spanning 33+ states. Producers on the project include Leah Hamos, theatrical agent at The Gersh Agency; Corinne Hayoun, head of the NY office of MANAGE-MENT; and Christina Wallace, tech executive, and theater producer.
Lauren M. Gunderson is the most produced playwright in America of 2017, the winner of the Lanford Wilson Award, the Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award and the Otis Guernsey New Voices Award, she is also a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and John Gassner Award for Playwriting, and a recipient of the Mellon Foundation’s 3-Year Residency with Marin Theatre Company. She studied Southern Literature and Drama at Emory University, and Dramatic Writing at NYU’s Tisch School where she was a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship. Her work has been commissioned, produced and developed at companies across the US including South Coast Rep (Emilie, Silent Sky), The Kennedy Center(The Amazing Adventures of Dr. Wonderful And Her Dog!), Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The O’Neill, The Denver Center, San Francisco Playhouse, Marin Theatre, Synchronicity, Berkeley Rep, Shotgun Players, TheatreWorks, Crowded Fire and more. She co-authored Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley with Margot Melcon, which was one of the most produced plays in America in 2017. Her work is published at Playscripts (I and You, Exit Pursued By A Bear, The Taming, and Toil And Trouble), Dramatists (The Revolutionists, The Book of Will, Silent Sky, Bauer, Miss Bennet) and Samuel French (Emilie). Her picture book Dr Wonderful: Blast Off to the Moon was released from Two Lions / Amazon in May 2017. LaurenGunderson.com and @LalaTellsAStory
Julia Glander is hopeful and proud to be participating in this important National Campaign of Theater Activism Against Gun Violence. She has played many stages across the country: Off Broadway, Kennedy Center, Asolo Theatre, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, from tiny intimate spaces to the massive Hollywood Bowl. Michigan audiences may recognize her from Meadow Brook Theatre (title role in MARY STUART), Tipping Point Theatre (as “Ann Landers” in LADY WITH ALL THE ANSWERS, Wilde Award), Williamston Theatre (as SHIRLEY VALENTINE) among many others. As a director, her work has been seen at the Williamston Theatre, Tipping Point Theatre, Performance Network, Penny Seats, and the 2017 WEAR ORANGE event “Right to Carry, Right to
Live” for the Washtenaw chapter of MOMS Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, of which she is a member. She is also a member of Actors Equity Association and Screen Actors Guild. Many thanks to David Wolber, Carla Milarch, Megan Buckley-Ball, Theatre Nova, Matrix Theatre and Theresa Reid, Kate Sharkey of MOMS for this collaboration. Special thanks to Lauren Gunderson for this opportunity to “do something.”
David Wolber is an actor and director. He also works as a Producing Artistic Director for Theatre NOVA and development consultant for Matrix Theatre Company. He served as the Artistic Director at Performance Network Theatre from 2007 to 2014. Recently, he directed The Revolutionists by Lauren Gunderson for Theatre NOVA, and appeared in The Snow Geese by Sharr White at Meadow Brook Theatre. He also directed and co-devised Dream Deferred: Detroit, 1967 at Matrix Theatre. This past year he received three Wilde Awards: First, “Best Teamwork” with Pete Prouty and Cheryl Turski in Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery at Meadow Brook Theatre, then “Best One Person Show” for directing 2.5 Minute Ride by Lisa Kron at Matrix Theatre, and finally, “Best Actor” for his role as Winston in 1984 at Williamston Theatre. David has performed and directed at many professional theatres across southeast Michigan, and he performed in the Edinburgh Fringe in Scotland. You may have seen him in a handful of commercials and independent Michigan films. David is an alumnus of Wayne State’s theatre program. He is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association, and he’s an Associate Producer on Jasmine Rivera’s short filmAmerican Prophet. Follow your path.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is a nationwide, non-partisan, grassroots movement of millions of Americans striving to end the epidemic of gun violence that kills 30,000 Americans every year. Moms supports the Second Amendment. We oppose extremist rhetoric that seeks to divide Americans who love their country and want to make it safer. The vast majority of Americans support Moms’ commonsense agenda, which includes background checks on every gun sale; keeping guns out of schools, bars, daycare centers, dorm rooms, sports stadiums, and other sensitive places; educating Americans about gun safety practices to save children’s lives; and providing support to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are survivors of gun violence.
The Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence (MCPGV) is an affiliate of States United to Prevent Gun Violence, a national non-profit organization focused on supporting state-based gun violence prevention programs. MCPGV and its partners work collaboratively to prevent gun violence through community education and stronger gun laws. MCPGV, its umbrella organization, States United, and its grassroots affiliates are unified in a state-by-state and national effort to make all Americans safer by keeping guns out of the hands of felons, terrorists and the violent mentally ill through background checks for all gun purchases, keep women and children safer by keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, protect families by demanding that gun-owners take responsibility and keep guns in the home locked, unloaded & safely stored, and educate parents and children to talk about the risk and dangers of gun violence in the home and on our streets.