In ‘Babel,’ Teenagers Create a Play About Guns

“How do we solve America’s gun violence problem?” “What is your interpretation of the Second Amendment?” “What are your thoughts on the NRA?”

These are the questions a group of teens from Dallas, Texas have been asking strangers over six months—for a play. In Texas, guns are more than a tool, they are an identifying cultural marker. A friendly state to gun owners, Texas is the land of “open carry,” a law that allows firearm owners to carry weapons visibly in public places. You don’t have to drive far to find a gun range, hunting and sporting goods stores, or billboards advertising gun shows. It may be no surprise, but Texans love their guns.

But in recent years, that love has butted up against a growing national conversation on gun control, and calls from the public and politician to curtail gun violence. It is that conflict that Babel was born. Babel is a verbatim theatre work by Cry Havoc Theater Company that presents numerous voices in the gun debate—for, against, or ambivalent. I serve as the associate director and dramaturg for this project. Since the right to own a firearm intersects with multiple sociological issues—such as race, class, gender, healthcare, and religion—Babel focuses less on a metal object and more about how that object intersects with American identity.

Cry Havoc is a youth theatre company that devises theatre with teenagers, who then star in them—participants are 14 to 18 years old. Mara Richards Bim created the company to fill a void for teen performers in Dallas. Unlike other youth theatres, which tend to shy away from controversial topics, Cry Havoc believes teens are capable of much more than simplistic material and should have an artistic outlet to articulate their perspectives on various societal issues.