Teens Produce Remarkably Nuanced, Agenda-Free Play About Last July's Shootings

Teens Produce Remarkably Nuanced, Agenda-Free Play About Last July's Shootings

Be warned: Cry Havoc’s production of Shots Fired opens with gunfire. It’s a jarring beginning to 90 extraordinary minutes of documentary-style theater covering the July 7, 2016, Dallas police shootings by Cry Havoc Theater Company.

Cry Havoc’s teen actors convey as much depth, empathy and emotion as any adult actors onstage in Dallas and likely anywhere. These are kids to watch.

This is a talented, sharp group of actors. They worked around a WFAA-TV (Channel 8) camera operator Saturday night and treated the audience to their maturity during the talkback. Brown, the DPD officer, congratulated the actors during the talkback, telling them they nailed the feelings of many officers and that he'd recommend the show to his colleagues.

Choreography by Emily Bernet that adds physical elements of the show is quite well done. Sound and lighting design by John M. Flores and Aaron Johansen, respectively, are crucial components that add credibility to this documentary.

Never have I seen an audience that wasn’t predominantly white at a theater. Cry Havoc has tapped into something that appeals to different kinds of theatergoers. It is a conversation to be had. There is no agenda to this play, just real voices from the Dallas community.

A handful of the actors graduated high school this year. It will be exciting to see what they do next.

Anyone who cares about the national conversation around race relations and police brutality will find something to take away from this, regardless political leanings. This production is a true catalyst for a difficult conversation in a time when we can all use a little understanding.

‘Shots Fired’ Hits Close to Home for Dallas Teens

‘Shots Fired’ Hits Close to Home for Dallas Teens

The way the kids of Cry Havoc processed the aftermath of the July shooting was to work throughout the fall of 2016 on a documentary-style devised-theatre piece titled Shots Fired, which premiered in January 2017. To create the piece, Richards Bim, codirector Ruben Carrazana, and the actors tracked down as many people as they could find to interview about the night of the shooting: police officers, community members, therapists, Black Lives Matter supporters, and Blue Lives Matter folks as well. The company is currently remounting the show, in a coproduction with Dallas’s Kitchen Dog Theater, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the shooting.

Among the interviewees were three key players: Dr. Brian Williams, the lead trauma surgeon on call that night at Parkland Memorial Hospital; Shetamia Taylor, a civilian who was shot; Mark Hughes, a man participating as an “open-carry” member of the protest who was for a time wrongly identified as the lead suspect. All three will return for the remount and participate in a panel discussion on July 13.

How teenage actors are bringing the Dallas police ambush to the stage

How teenage actors are bringing the Dallas police ambush to the stage

Last July, Cry Havoc Theater Company’s group of about a dozen teenage actors was preparing for its upcoming summer play Good Kids.

But the July 7 police ambush, which followed a peaceful protest in downtown Dallas, interrupted the young actors' practice. Founder Mara Richards Bim felt it was important to talk to the students about their emotions.

“I felt like, as the head of the company, there was a need to go in and check in with the kids. It turned into a several-hours-long conversation,” Richards Bim said.

Months later, that conversation and many more afterward turned into the documentary-style play Shots Fired, which returns for a weeklong run on Friday’s anniversary.

The Dallas events followed social justice marches across the country, prompted by the deaths of two black men, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. The shootings by police were both captured on video and just days apart.

Shots Fired tackles issues of race relations and how police handled the Dallas ambush and the search for the shooter.

Teen Actors Take On Racism And Police Violence In A New Play About The Dallas Ambush

Teen Actors Take On Racism And Police Violence In A New Play About The Dallas Ambush

A year after five police officers were killed during an otherwise peaceful protest, the doctor who treated many of the injured reflects on his role as a healer and an African-American man.

Co-Productions with Kitchen Dog Theater

Co-Productions with Kitchen Dog Theater

Cry Havoc Theater Company and Kitchen Dog Theater will co-present CHTC's Shots Fired with a new work this summer.

The collaboration to bring these two shows to audiences this summer marks the first official partnership between Cry Havoc and Kitchen Dog. “When I founded Cry Havoc Theater in 2014, Kitchen Dog was the first theater I approached about a possible collaboration,” said Richards Bim. “I’m a huge fan of the stories they tell, the quality of their productions, and their commitment to cultivating new voices in the theater. I’m honored and grateful for their partnership and commitment to bring Shots Fired back and for their invaluable support in the development of The Great American Sideshow.”

“Given both of our companies’ proclivities for new work and timely, provocative subject matter, this partnership seemed like a natural fit to me”, says Co-Artistic Director Tina Parker. “I was very moved by the performance of Shots Fired I saw this past winter and it is my sincere hope that KDT can help increase visibility for this amazing young company.”

Student Actors Take On The July Shooting of Five Dallas Police Officers

Student Actors Take On The July Shooting of Five Dallas Police Officers

Now, Cry Havoc Theater works with self-generated plays.

Primarily, yes.

Other theaters use that procedure — locally, for instance, Cara Mia Theatre has done it. But you’re the only company that regularly does this with teenage students. So who are these students and how do you get them to cooperate?

Well, they actually enjoy the creation process. They get more input than if they were just handed a script. So we hold auditions at various high schools around Dallas. We also hold public auditions. And generally, they are active in their theater programs at their schools. And so they are excited to do something that they can’t do in school.

Fired Up

Fired Up

The teen ensemble of Cry Havoc Theater Company creates the compelling ensemble piece Shots Fired, about the Dallas police shootings and responding through art.

I won’t spoil the clever way in which it is staged at the Margo Jones Theatre in Fair Park, but let’s just say that it’s interactive with the audience, but not obtrusive. They use their interviews to get at big issues brought up by the shootings: Black Lives Matter, the clear majority of good cops vs. the much smaller number of bad ones, how the gunman was killed with the bomb, and what it means to rage against the machine. Remember, just days before the tragedy there were police shootings of black men in Baton Rouge and St. Paul, which sparked the Dallas demonstration.