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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane teens to perform ‘painful,’ ‘dark’ plays to take a stand against gun violence 25 years after Columbine

Teen actors will take the Spokane Children’s Theatre stage this week to push for an end to gun violence 25 years after the infamous Columbine school shooting.

The organization is joining other theaters and civic groups across the country in commemorating the anniversary on Saturday of the high school shooting in Colorado by performing #Enough! Plays to End Gun Violence, according to Spokane Children’s Theatre Executive Director Tanya Brownlee.

The plays are written by teenagers from across the country about gun violence.

“It’s painful, it’s dark, there’s cursing,” said Craig Hirt, the play’s director. “It’s not a typical Spokane Children’s Theatre show. So yeah, there are people who it’s too much for them, and that’s OK. It’s very in-your-face and raw.”

Inspired by student protests following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, theater director Michael Cotey worked with students to create the #Enough plays, which premiered in 2020.

Hirt said the Spokane Children’s Theatre actors wanted to do something “edgier” that pushes them more and involves a serious subject. So, the theater offered the play as an acting class last fall and performed it three times.

Brownlee said the performances were in front of friends and family, and Thursday’s performance will be the first time the teens will bring the show to the general public.

Hirt said he hopes his actors realize they have a voice.

“They’re the ones that are going to be the change-makers, because this has been going on for years, and we’ve done nothing about it, and we just continue to allow it to go on,” Hirt said.

Brownlee said she wanted to give the teens a platform and wanted the community to see what youth are going through.

“It’s really easy as adults to just kind of glaze over it and move on, but it’s real every day for these kids,” she said.

Brownlee said the teens will play multiple characters, like students at a school shooting, a mother who lost her child in a shooting and a person who makes guns.

The teen actors in the play were nominated for a local Chase Youth Award and attended the awards ceremony Tuesday night at the Fox Theater in downtown Spokane. The Chase Youth Commission honors youth, teens and an adult who make a difference in the community.

The teens performing the play said the play is much more serious than the family-friendly ones to which they’re accustomed.

Loralyn Lenz, a senior at Mt. Spokane High School, said she typically performs comedy plays with no cursing. She said it took her five minutes to say a swear word when rehearsal for the #Enough play started.

“It was really hard, because I don’t swear often or am serious often,” Lenz said.

Emmeline Hirt, a sophomore at The Community School in Spokane and Craig Hirt’s daughter, said it’s strange performing in a play without comedy.

“It is really weird not having comedic relief, I guess, because plays can sometimes have sad parts, but you always have kind of that comedy,” she said.

Like most students nationwide, Lenz and Hirt practice lockdowns, active shooter drills and evacuation drills at their schools.

Lenz said she’s experienced shooting threats at her school and has friends who have been affected by school shootings.

“It’s still scary to think about,” she said.

Even though most students haven’t been directly impacted by a school shooting, Hirt said she wants people to be aware that it’s still something they think about often.

“I want people to know how much of a real issue it is,” she said. “It affects everybody, even if you’re not in a school; the issue of gun violence has the potential to affect everybody.”

Adriaan Burger, a home-schooled ninth-grader, said the actors will tell stories in a way where people can see and feel what gun violence victims experience.

“We’ve been talking statistics for years,” Burger said. “What about the stories?”

As a home-schooled student, Burger offers a different perspective, but he said he can relate to the feeling that students and the rest of society have gotten used to shootings.

“People shouldn’t get used to this,” he said.

Burger said these stories and the message they send need to be told.

“If it’s not told, then no one will do anything about it,” he said. “So, if we can hopefully get enough attention to it, maybe something will happen. Maybe someone will finally do something, and maybe they can make a change that we’re trying to make with it.”

The one-hour play is 7 p.m. Thursday and Saturday at the theater, 2727 N. Madelia St. Patrons are encouraged to pay what they can for the plays.