The Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence presents “The Gun Show” at Williamston Theatre

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The Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence has been putting on a one-act, one-person play about the debate on guns. The show goes throughout February and March 2020. On Monday, the show came to Williamston. 

“The Gun Show” explores playwright E.M. Lewis’s relationship with guns throughout her life as she moved from rural Oregon to New York and Los Angeles. “If you look in the country now tons of mass shootings have been going on and people are scared,” said Jala Jackson, actress and MSU theatre major. “Nobody is talking to each other, and it’s turned into a left or right issue. This play does what people aren’t doing, we are talking about it.

Program from The Gun Show. Photo by Marsalis Brockman

The play stars Jala Jackson, an MSU senior getting a BFA in theatre. Rob Roznowski, a faculty member in MSU’s department of theatre directed the play.

Jackson presents a photo of E.M Lewis and her childhood home in Oregon. Photo by Gia Mariano

Instead of trying to convince people of one side, the play focuses on an open discussion about guns. “I grew up around guns when I was younger,” said Tobin Hissong, a resident of Dexter, MI. “So I do understand why they may be necessary. I think this play really represented both sides and did a great job of talking about sensible gun ownership.” 

Linda Brundage, the executive director of the Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, said that after Sandy Hook she knew she had to get up and do something. “Rob Roznowski, the director, brought [the play] to us and we knew it would be a good idea to work with him and the Department of Theater,” said Brundage. 

Lewis’ play goes through five different stories of her experience with guns and gun violence. Each story depicted different gun situations.

Everyone has different experiences with guns, but it’s made obvious throughout the play how important the discussion of the topic is.”There needs to be more dialogue between people who have opposing views,” said Joan Mattson, a Williamston resident. She said uncomfortable conversations can be a start of change and the play was a dialogue of uncomfortable conversation, so hopefully, the message was conveyed.

The play puts an emphasis on a non-partisan conversation about gun ownership and gun control. Instead of focusing on one side, Lewis is able to share her story of guns in a positive and negative light. The most important part of the play is being able to have a discussion, said Brundage. “Talk about it. We want people to be able to talk about it instead of arguing.” 

Lewis’ character was completely unbiased which served a great purpose. “There needs to be intelligent dialogue on both sides,” said Paul Kato of Williamston. “The unbiasedness of the play was able to force the audience to have a look into the opposing perspective.” 

During the play, Jackson told stories that were unfamiliar to those who have resided in Williamston their whole lives. Lewis’ character told the audience how important it is to have a gun when the nearest police are 50 miles away. However, she then expressed different sentiments when her husband used a gun to take his life. 

Lewis weighed the pros and cons of guns and her decision was to stay undecided. Instead she took it upon herself to create this play and hopefully bring more awareness to the situation.

Jala received a standing ovation after her one-woman performance. She explained there was a lot of memorization involved in her preparation for the role. However, she knew how important her role was to really portray Lewis’s life accurately. “After I read the play, and with my own experience with guns in my life I just knew that this was something meant for me,” Jackson said. 

The Gun Show will continue to travel throughout Michigan and Flint is its next stop. To see if The Gun Show is coming to a city near you, visit the coalition’s website here or you can go on their Facebook page.

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