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Baltimore school combines art and activism to address gun violence

Posted at 6:14 PM, Apr 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-18 08:51:53-04

Students across the country are preparing for another walkout to protest gun violence, but the day of this particular walkout also has significance. 

The national walkout will be on Friday, April 20, which is the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting. The goal is to commemorate Columbine and call to end gun violence in schools. 

 The Baltimore School for the Arts will be holding a play performed by one of their students.

"They play is a comedy until it's not and so there's this really amazing shift," actress Ui-Seng Francois said. "The first time I read it, I was taken aback."

The senior theater student will perform the one-woman-show "Natural Shocks." It's based on Hamlet's "To be or not to be" and is about a girl who is waiting out a tornado. While she is waiting, she tells stories and secrets that they say will put the reality of guns in America in your very lap. 

"The play is much more about the reality of what can happen to a person when a gun is in their home and when they have these types of relationships," student organizer Elizabeth Sacktor said.

Sacktor and fellow sophomore Emilia Vizachero decided to bring the play to their school and recruited Francois to play the lead. They wanted to use art as activism to address the current political climate around guns. 

"We’re kind of isolated on two sides. One side being: yes, we need guns. They are protecting us. They are essential. The other side being: no guns ever. I kind of hope that this play bridges the gap and leads us forward as opposed to bringing us apart," Vizachero said. 

"Using this piece of art to further our activism is just another example of how we youths can be activists. We are activists. We have something to say about this current political climate and we are going to say it," Sacktor said. 

"There's this idea that you can’t really change the way people think but I’m hoping this play and the twist will really get down into the audiences mind," Francois said.

"Natural Shocks" is written by playwright Lauren Gunderson. It has not been published and will debut in schools all across the country Friday, April 20th, as part of the 19th anniversary of Columbine and the National School Walkout. 

"It really feels like you're being a part of a national movement," Francois said. "I feel like it’s going to be really powerful and impactful and I can’t wait to see what happens."

The 65-minute play will take place at BSA at 4:45 Friday. It's open to the public and free since the playwright waived the fees for the rights. However, students are hoping to collect donations to give to the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund.