"GUNPLAYS: is a series of five plays by William Electric Black addressing inner city violence and guns. In 2014, Black launched his GUNPLAYS series at Theater for the New City with "Welcome Home Sonny T," a drama that spotlighted two significant forces driving the current epidemic of gun violence: the social impact of alienation and unemployment on young black males and the declining influence of black ministers as a force of stability in affected neighborhoods. The second play in the series, "When Black Boys Die" (2015), premiered at Theater for the New City in 2015. The third, presented by Theater for the New City for 2016 Gun Awareness Month, was "Death of a Black Man (A Walk By)," a play with hip hop verse, chanting, songs and poetry.
William Electric Black's record with "activist" plays is admirable. In 2009, he directed Theater for the New City's sensational and serious "Lonely Soldier Monologues: Women at War in Iraq," a staged series of monologues based on a book by Helen Benedict. The play earned widespread notice and significantly helped the issues of America's female soldiers to be widely recognized for the first time.
William Electric Black has also issued a children's book, "A Gun Is Not Fun," and is now looking for community groups, businesses, government agencies, school systems, hospitals, and churches to underwrite the cost of printing so that children in Pre-K/1st & 2nd grade can get free copies.
WHERE AND WHEN:
Fourth in William Electric Black's GUNPLAYS series, "The Faculty Room" swallows its audience into a schoolhouse in a hard lockdown.
The hard lockdown--when an imminent danger is known and a school is under threat--is an unforgettable rite of passage for many people, and it is the setting of this immersive drama.
In this play, the faculty members of James Baldwin High School have found themselves in a mandatory lock down because two star players on the girls' basketball team have quarreled over a lover. Their argument has escalated to armed conflict because of the prevalence of guns in the school.
Huddled together in the faculty room are the three women and a man. There is the middle-aged female security guard aims to manage the crisis with authority. The girls' phys ed teacher/basketball coach, who grew up in the neighborhood, has confiscated a pistol from one of her star hoopsters just the day before. The perky, idealistic teaching artist is relishing her first inner city teaching gig, hoping to inspire teens who have lost their way, lost their dreams, and lost family members. Finally, there is Mr. Cutter, a history teacher in his sunset years, who has taught his students that the epidemic of gun violence is just that, a disease.
The lives of two black girls are at stake. The manual says that in an event of imminent danger, all individuals, including safety officers, must not engage in any building sweep activity, but must take appropriate lockdown action and await the arrival of first responders. But will these people "do it by the book"? Will James Baldwin High School be on the news tonight? For certain, things will never be the same in its Faculty Room after today.