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GUNPLAY

The year 2018 was the deadliest year in American history for school shootings. It was also the year a tiny theater company of teen actors in Dallas set out to create an original stage play about our deep divisions over Second Amendment rights, mass shootings, background checks and automatic weapons.

Often, the national debate over firearms is portrayed as one side versus the other, pro-gun against anti-gun. But the argument isn’t actually binary. There’s complexity. There’s nuance. And there’s drama.

In ‘Gun Play,’ podcast 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. They meet a mom still wrestling with her daughter’s suicide, a father still grieving his son who was gunned down at school, and the owner of a gun range where the teens shoot AR-15s. The journey takes them from the snows of Sandy Hook, Connecticut, to the steps of the U.S. Capitol and to the floor of the national NRA convention. The young actors, some from neighborhoods plagued by violence, provide a window into an issue that continues to tear at the nation.
Series Trailer

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.

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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.

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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.

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Episode Four — 'Mrs. Clements, Your Legs Are Shaking'

Their interviews done, 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.

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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. Gun violence hasn’t declined, and gun sales are soaring amid a global health crisis. We talk to the performers and ask them what they think about guns today.

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