I’ve entered a number of play-writing contests and festivals this year as I begin to expand my writing in new ways. I ran across one such un-named short play theatre festival which I had planned to enter until I saw one of the stipulations: plays with guns as props will not be accepted.
I had a script that I wanted to use in this festival which actually did have a gun in it. So I knew immediately not to send it.
But then I got to thinking why? Why no guns?
I could only think of two possible reasons for a theatre festival to not allow plays with guns. Perhaps there are more than two, but I couldn’t think of them. Here are the ones I thought of:
- They are afraid that a gun on stage might be mistaken as a real gun by the audience, thus causing a possible panic.
- They are making a statement about gun violence in America by not allowing guns on stage.
Let me look at each of these.
#1 – This scenario seems unlikely to me. I’ve used guns on stage (high school setting) for years. Some guns look more realistic than others, and I’ve never one even had the slightest infinitesimal reason to suspect that anyone in the audience was disturbed or fooled by the fake fire arm. So I’m thinking that this isn’t the reason for not allowing prop fire arms in their festival.
#2 – I’m guessing they are making a statement by having such restrictions. This is fine if that’s what they want to do. It’s their festival, and if they want to run it a certain way, no problem. But I tend to disagree with their assessment. The first reason is that there are many fine, good, and important plays which necessitate a fire arm. How awkward would it be to have a cop tell the bank robber to put up his hands by warning him sternly without any physical threat to back it up.
But it’s actually something else which makes this issue more important in my eyes. Our culture is a culture of guns. Like them or hate them, they are there, and they are there to stay. One of the main tasks of a playwright, or at least how I see it, is to be a reflection of society – its issues and struggles. Playwrights are to wrestle with questions from all angles and provide insight that may not come from anywhere else. To take the weapon (haha) out of the hands of the playwright’s arsenal, does not only diminish what’s happening in society, it mocks the influence a playwright can have.
People have guns. People use guns. People are in society. Playwrights write about people; therefore, playwrights also write about guns.
I hate to see the whitewashing of society, and I hope theatres will continue to be at the forefront of society in regards to dealing with important cultural issues.
Hey festival, I was going to send you my script “Alone in a Bar,” but I guess I’ll find another avenue for it.