In an act of theater activism against gun violence, playwright Lauren Gunderson (who at 36 is already the most produced playwright in the US) has organized a nation-wide campaign of royalty-free readings of her unpublished, new play "Natural Shocks." By the end of March, more than 50 readings were already planned, most intentionally taking place on Friday, April 20, in commemoration of the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting and in solidarity of the National School Walkout. Local theater company Aspie Works is representing Rochester in the social action, and will donate all ticket proceeds to RESTORE and Willow Domestic Violence Center. Justin Rielly directs; featuring actors Summer Sattora and Bianca Halley.
In "Natural Shocks" — a title inspired by Hamlet's "To be, or not to be" soliloquy — a woman takes refuge in her basement during a tornado warning and begins to divulge dark parts of her story to the audience. "It also happens to be completely of-the-moment, with a storyline all too familiar in 2018: one that is inescapably intertwined with gun violence," says a statement about the play. Gunderson finished the first draft of the script only two weeks before the Parkland shooting on February 14, and "she knew she wanted to use the play to drive awareness, conversation, and ultimately, action." The power of theater should always be noted: Many of the young Never Again movement leaders are members of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School drama club.
A Rochester reading of "Natural Shocks" takes place Friday, April 20, at MuCCC, 142 Atlantic Avenue. 8 p.m. $5 at the door; all proceeds go to RESTORE and Willow Center. aspieworks.com; naturalshocks.org.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been updated to correct the performance's start time.