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New KERA Podcast 'Gun Play' Spotlights Teen Theater Troupe Exploring Gun Culture

Francis Bandy holds a gun with both hands, squinting as she aims it in front of her.
Hady Mawajdeh
Francis Bandy, one of the teen actors with Cry Havoc Theater Company, aims a gun in front of her.

In 2018, the deadliest year in U.S. history for school shootings, a Dallas-based theater company of teen actors set out on a cross-country journey to create an original play about some of our deep divisions over Second Amendment rights, mass shootings, background checks and automatic weapons.

In Gun Play, a new five-part series from KERA and Guns & America, hosts Hady Mawajdeh and Jerome Weeks follow Cry Havoc Theater Company as its student actors travel across the country to talk to folks on all sides of the debate.

Learn more about the series which is airing on KERA 90.1 FM all week from Oct. 5-9.

Episode Schedule:

Monday | 7:30 p.m. | Episode One: "This Isn’t A Disney Musical"
Recent studies have tied gun ownership to the startling high rates of teen suicides in the U.S. In this episode, we meet some of the Cry Havoc actors as they conduct their first interviews about gun violence — self-directed gun violence. We learn they have skin in this game: One cast member has lost a friend to suicide. To the actor’s surprise, that heartbreaking trauma becomes part of their play.

Tuesday | 7:30 p.m. | Episode Two: "Take The Bad Guys’ Guns Away"
Finding gun owners willing to share their opinions on guns has proved difficult for Cry Havoc — that is, until they visit a gun range. But their visit happens in the wake of the Parkland shooting in Florida, and that event shakes the actors’ ability to be unbiased. Plus, they head to Connecticut for a heartbreaking visit with the parents of two children who died in the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Wednesday | 7:30 p.m. | "Episode Three: It’s A Battle We’re In"
Cry Havoc’s actors visit Washington, D.C., to interview politicians and lobbyists about firearms legislation. They talk with Texas Senator John Cornyn about his Fix NICS Act, and then return to Dallas for the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting. They hear President Trump address the NRA — but are taken aback by Sen. Cornyn’s fiery speech. Then their visit with the NRA is abruptly stopped.

Thursday | 7:30 p.m. | Episode Four: "Mrs. Clements, Your Legs Are Shaking"
Their interviews done and the actors get down to shaping and staging their new play, Babel, but repeatedly rehearsing real-life traumas is wearing them down. The sold-out crowds applaud them. But is Babel “fair”? Can the actors even be objective — after parents told them, in person, how their own children were shot to death? Finally, several Black students offer their sobering view of gun violence.

Friday | 8:30 p.m. | Episode Five: "What Breaks My Heart The Most"
Babel is done. The student actors of Cry Havoc Theatre Company sold out every performance of their play, and their show was lauded in the region. But it’s been two years, and gun violence hasn’t declined and gun sales are soaring amid a global health crisis.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.

Hady Mawajdeh has been a reporter, producer, and digital editor at KERA since 2016. He is the creator and the co-host of KERA's first narrative podcast, Gun Play. And prior to his work in engagement, he also reported on arts and culture, social justice, and gun rights for the newsroom.
Jerome Weeks is the Art&Seek producer-reporter for KERA. A professional critic for more than two decades, he was the book columnist for The Dallas Morning News for ten years and the paper’s theater critic for ten years before that. His writing has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, Newsday, American Theatre and Men’s Vogue magazines.