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Common Folk hopes to start a conservation about gun violence in schools with an immersive play in three acts.

Common Folk Host Play Examining Gun Violence

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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The production will take place in four different venues during its run this week. The play is adult-oriented; children ages 12 to 16 should attend with an adult.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Common Folk will host the play "Venable 8: Three Lessons on Gun Violence" followed by a conversation in hopes to disarm the difficult discussion about gun violence in schools.
 
The local artist's collective production of the three-act play this week examines gun violence in the classroom, why it occurs and how it can be prevented. 
 
"This is really an attempt to dig a little bit deeper and have a healthy and safe conversation around a very unsafe topic but also involve art," Common Folk Creative Director Jessica Sweeney said.
 
Sweeney said the first act, "A Child's Game," written by Benjamin M. Baylon, is a dream-like sequence during which Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter Adam Lanza is confronted by one of the children he killed.
 
She said the second act, "Class Act, Version 379," by Holly J. Jensen, explores how homophobia can play into gun violence.
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The final act, "Trofimov, a Student," by William Orem, is about a student who after receiving a bad grade attempts to intimidate his teacher with a gun.
 
Sweeney said each act is followed by a conversation so the audience can comfortably talk about gun violence with the cast, crew and each other. 
 
She said the conversations are not designed to be pro-gun or anti-gun.
 
"It is really about creating a safe environment to have these discussions because it is a scary conversation," She said. "We just want to have a conversation about the reality of guns in our lives, our community and the world and to be more comfortable talking about it."
 
Each show will take place in a different location, which will affect the conversation after each scene. 
 
"Each show will really be unique and the different environments will offer different opportunities that will affect the conversation," she said.
 
Sweeney said the Thursday, Dec. 1, show will be at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art at 7 p.m. and is already sold out.
 
The Friday, Dec. 2, show will be in the North Adams Armory and the Saturday, Dec. 3, show will be at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in Venable 4. There will be showings on these dates at 7 and 9 p.m.
 
The performances on Sunday, Dec. 4, will be at the Roots Teen Center on Eagle Street at 2 and 4 p.m.
 
All shows are free but seats can be reserved by sending via venableeight2016@gmail.com.
 
Sweeney said there is a live gunshot from a blank in the performance and because of the subject matter, children under the age of 12 will not be allowed in and those under the age of 16 are urged to come with an adult. 
 
She added that the shows will have small audiences of no more than 30 seated at desks in a classroom-type setting.
 
"It is intense and we want to be able to support people in the room when we have this conversation," she said.
 
Sweeney said the play format also helps evoke emotion without actually putting anyone in danger.
 
"I have seen how theater can so help someone better understand the world around them," she said. "It is one thing to have a conversation but to feel the impact without the risk of being in an unsafe situation and to be able to react to that emotion I think is very important." 

Tags: common folk,   gun violence,   local theater,   

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