“Will this ever stop?” A beat. Then each and every person in the over filled Black Box stood up and gave thunderous applause, all with solemn, intense, emotion filled looks on their faces.
The “Every 28 Hours” Plays, directed by drama teacher Summer Williams, are a collection of 43 one minute plays all with the common theme of racial equality and of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Each of the 43 outstanding, gut wrenching plays deserves a review to itself. The plays ranged from video games to talking bullets to car rides.
One exceptional play was “The Fall,” written by Shruti Purkayastha. It felt like time stopped during this performance. The sounds of gun shots prevailed throughout the minute with actors having emotional breakdowns and yelling on top of each other. The actors yelled out locations as a photo that was so impressively projected behind them changed to a new location, each with a different emotion, yet all intense. Towards the end, the naming of places accelerated, and terminated with Ferguson. There was flashing light. Then a gunshot. Then dark.
To relieve us from the intensity, the play that followed, “Other Stats,” by Gilmer, was much lighter. Junior Hewitt Langton, in an impersonation of the president, read statistics about people of color watching Game of Thrones, graduating veterinary school, interacting with other races and having a burrito. Though not as deep as some of the other plays, “Other Stats” was a nice break and reminder of commonalities between people.
Another excellent play was “Before the ‘Pop, Pop, Pop,” by Universes. In this play, eight actors walked around the stage, and a few people at a time were in the spotlight describing “her.” The actors took different personas each time they recited another line, such as an elderly lady, a mother, and more. Each time another description of the girl was read, the audience felt more and more for the girl. At the end, the eight talented actors said in unison, “Her hands were up, her hands were up, before the pop, pop, pop.”
The play, “Shaping His World,” by Stephen Peirick, was quite a reality check. It was executed fantastically by senior Gracie Western, a mother, and Langton, her husband. They were taking a drive around the city to get their baby to fall asleep when Western’s character told Langton’s character to lock the door because there was a stranger. Langton’s character responds, “Stranger, or Black stranger?” There was a pause filled with tension, then bursts of fighting. That was the way she had grown up, but what were they going to teach their son?
The finale, “Unknown Thousands,” by Nikkole Salter, was the play that took the cake. Every member in the cast and four school staff members stood in a line. All together, they shouted, “Seventeen Hundreds!” Then, in canon, cast members said a decade and a number. “1700, unknown, 1710…” and so on. The pattern of saying the decade and then “unknown” and some number, such as ten thousands continued until 1960. Junior Sebastian Wood rattled off a list of names that seemed incredibly long. The 1970’s and 90’s had a list of names of similar length and the 1980’s were unknown. Then came the 2000’s. This list, read by staff members, seemed even longer, miles long. The 2010’s were longer. It is unclear how long the list was because time seemed to stop when the names were being read. The names just went on and on, tugging at the hearts of audience members. While the names were being read, cast members called out various encouragements such as “say their names,” “Black lives matter,” and “keep going, we’re right here. Keep going.” Then, finally, the names stopped. “Will this ever stop?”
After the passionate applause, Williams came out, told people to open the windows, and gave audience members 90 seconds to decompress. After that time, she came out and led a beautiful, much needed discussion. Jumping off questions for the post-show conversation were, “How do you feel?” “What play stood out the most to you?” and “How do you think we should talk about these issues at our school?” After initial hesitance, there was passionate audience participation from students, teachers, and more.
It was clear from every single comment made that the 2017 Spring Play “Every 28 Hours” was one of emotion, thinking, and importance.