Arms Around America
Arms Around America is a community-based performance project. It culminates in a season of podcast episodes and an evening of three short plays based on the oral histories of families around the country whose lives have been shaped by guns. The goal is to foster dialogue among diverse community members about the role of guns in American society. Community partnerships form the foundation of our work. Partners include arts presenters committed to the development of the work and community organizations whose missions touch on gun-related issues. By prioritizing cross-sector partnerships, we are working to inclusively engage culturally and politically diverse audiences. Confirmed partners include Miami Light Project, Guitars Over Guns, Empowered Youth, and March for Our Lives. We are in discussion with other potential partners in several locations nationally. We conduct book-length oral histories of two families in each of the project’s three home cities. Then we adapt one of those oral histories from each locale into a short theater piece (in consultation with the families themselves). We aim for a constellation of stories that represents diverse scenarios, themes and perspectives on guns and related issues. The theater pieces are produced as a season of podcast episodes, and are then staged as live performances in the form of audio theater, or radio plays. Arms Around America is designed to position audiences “between the ears” of participating families by creatively interpreting the sounds of their life-stories. We will render empathetic, complex theatrical portraits, illustrating families’ relationships to guns, but not totalizing those families’ identities through those relationships. We combine documentary theater’s practice of sourcing scripts from oral histories, and investigatory theater’s productive tension between verbatim transcripts and formal experimentation.