Gun violence in Washington state causes more preventable deaths than car accidents or smoking. That fact sets the stage for Control, a upcoming Town Hall Seattle performance about gun control put on by the Capitol Hill-centric theater company Strawberry Theatre Workshop.
Town Hall was established in 1999 as a community gathering place to explore crucial local and national issues of the day. Occasionally, the 8th and Seneca building becomes a theatrical venue — a unique confluence of art and social dialogue that will be on display May 9th-18th for Control’s six performances.
Strawshop, which moves permanently into Capitol Hill’s 12th Avenue Arts project this fall, will present the “living newspaper” play featuring dozens of sources complied by artistic director Greg Carter.
MJ Sieber, a veteran Seattle actor performing in the show, said Control mixes scripted story telling with improv.
“There are dramatic events and stories and points of view that we don’t really need to do anything more than organize how they are said because they speak for themselves,” he said. “But when it came to important statistics, like how many people die from accidental discharge from guns or suicides from guns each year, that was when we would do improvisation to see how we could make these dramatic, rather than just reading off a bunch of numbers.”
The play will be presented news-style, with reporters, editors and writers. The history of gun control laws will be examined along with an investigation into the current national debate that pits safety against freedom from unreasonable restraint.
Living Newspaper-style theater was developed during the Great Depression by the Federal Theatre Project and features short, rapid-fire scenes. A classic example of the dramatization of an issue is a scene where a character shops for tomatoes and is able to buy them from a store for a lower price. When the character has to pay for electricity, there is nowhere else to go for cheaper electricity.
Sieber says that he lost a friend to gun violence and considers himself a liberal on the issue of gun control, though before his involvement with Control, he felt far less informed, and had never considered other sides of the argument.
“When Sandy Hook happened, everybody on the liberal side said, ‘How many children have to die before you take action?’” he said. “(In Control), we have a perspective of, ‘We need more responsible people with guns that can act to remove the irresponsible people. We care just as much as you do.’ I don’t share that opinion, but I hadn’t thought of it that way.”
The Strawberry Theatre Workshop will perform Control at Town Hall Seattle, 1119 8th Ave, May 9th-18th. General admission tickets are $13 and can be purchased here.