Dallas Observer

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.

For Shots Fired, Teens Conducted Interviews About July Police Shootings

For Shots Fired, Teens Conducted Interviews About July Police Shootings

July 7, 2016, is a day North Texans will always remember. During a peaceful protest against recent police shootings that left black men dead in Louisiana and Minnesota, a heavily armed man opened fired on police officers working the protest in downtown Dallas. Five officers were killed. Nine were injured. Several civilians were wounded in the attack.

Cry Havoc Theater Company, a relatively new company that focuses on giving teenagers a voice, was in rehearsals for their summer Festival of Independent Theaters show when the attacks happened. The teens were overwhelmed by the story and the shootings. Cry Havoc artistic director Mara Richards Bim decided then that their next show would be a devised piece looking at race relations in Dallas.

Cry Havoc Theater's Shut Up and Listen Will Make You Do Just That

Cry Havoc Theater's Shut Up and Listen Will Make You Do Just That

Like acne scars that never fade, even as middle-age wrinkles carve tiny paths around them, the worst moments of our teen years remain etched forever on our psyches. It is the time in life most pocked by humiliation, shame and insecurity. Impulse control hasn’t yet kicked in. Mistakes are made. And made again. We learn from the blunders or are doomed to repeat them, or be haunted by them, well into adulthood.

The all-teen Cry Havoc Theater Company plays on these themes and more in a wise and powerful new piece of devised theater titled Shut Up and Listen!, going on for one more weekend at the Margo Jones Theater in Fair Park. Directors Mara Richards Bim and Shelby-Allison Hibbs and their actors — Daniel Hinton, Trinity Gordon, Regina Juarez, Cara Lawson, Romeo Hosein, Jesus Sena, Lucky Lawhorn II, Shamaraye McQueen, De’Aveyon Murphy, Lilia Houser, Elijah Rice — created the script using Meisner acting exercises and writing prompts. Several original monologues punctuate the action, but the otherwise nearly wordless 70-minute production unfolds as a high-energy circus of physical movement that stretches into every corner of the intimate acting space. (Dean Wray served as movement director.)

The (out)Siders Project Addresses Ugly Truths About Teenage Life

The (out)Siders Project Addresses Ugly Truths About Teenage Life

There's a long-held idea, fabricated by an optimistic adult, that the stories we tell teenagers should be optimistic, aspirational. Maybe that's why, when it comes to picking books for curriculums, we ban the ones that even sniff of hardship, violence or reality. But if you give a group of teenagers the chance to tell their story, to explain their reality, you end up with a book like S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders, and you end up with a play like The (out)Siders Project, onstage at the Latino Cultural Center through Saturday as Cry Havoc Theater Company's inaugural production. 

Hinton's 1967 coming-of-age novel explores teenage violence in the context of two rival groups or gangs. It wrestles with insecurities, socioeconomic inequity and what happens when life spins out of your control. For The (out)Siders Project, playwright Shelby Allison Hibbs borrows Hinton's plot, but weaves in stories gathered from the actual cast — students at local high schools including Skyline High School and Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. What manifests onstage is an honest, compelling look at the methods teenagers use to band into groups, to form identities.