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Community is at the core YogaSport Dallas – it’s simply why we do what we do. The same can be said of Cry Havoc Theater and their Founder and Artistic Director, Mara Richards Bim. Babel, a documentary-style theatre production, will be premiering in July and tackles the often polarizing topic of gun violence in America. YogaSport will be a collection site for a shoe drive May 23rd through June 13th in conjunction with Babel and Cry Havoc Theater Company. For information about the shoe drive, click here.

We also had the opportunity to sit down with Mara and talk about why this production is needed and also why this conversation is so important in today’s America.

Why do you think it’s important for us to keep the conversation going about gun violence?

There are so many reasons but the biggest is that more Americans are killed by guns than AIDS, drug overdoses, war and terrorism combined. That statistic includes suicides by guns which a lot of people will say shouldn’t count in the overall gun deaths number because those people would have found a way to kill themselves regardless of access to guns. And, certainly some of them would. But, when you look at places like New York City that have strict gun control laws, you’d expect that if people don’t have access to guns, the suicide rate by other means would go up significantly. It doesn’t. There’s something about having a gun in a home that makes violence (domestic violence, suicide, school shootings) easier and more prevalent. When people are volatile, the damage by guns is irreversible.

What inspired you to present the topic in this way? Why with youth theater?

We are a youth theatre company that does provocative, challenging theatre. That’s what we do. I work with the teens to create original work on issues that resonate with them. I’ve found that when we present shows on contemporary topics, adults listen in a different kind of way. For a show like this, we’re doing what’s called documentary/verbatim theatre. We collect first-person interviews on a subject and present them word-for-word. Think about some of the words you’ve said on a hot-button topic coming out of the mouths teens. It’s powerful to sit in the audience and hear that. It’s shocking and it checks people in a way that they aren’t otherwise checked. The young people in our country are watching what we, as the adults, do and say. Our words and actions have an impact.

Do you think we all could ever really sit down, have a conversation and listen to each other about guns in America?

I don’t know. I hope so. Certainly, that’s the premise of this show. We are collecting all points of view and presenting them in a night of theatre. But, we also called this show Babel for a reason. In the Biblical story, the people banded together to build a tower to the heavens. And, when they got too close, God intervened, spread the people across the land giving them each a different language and creating mass chaos.

In American today, we can’t even agree on which words to use when talking about guns. While working on this project, I was lining up interviews with our Senators (Ted Cruz and John Cornyn). When I said I ran a youth company and we were creating a show about gun ownership in America, their staff corrected me and said “you mean second amendment rights”. On the flip side, most gun control advocates have come to realize that the phrase “gun control” goes nowhere. As long as we’re fighting over semantics, I’m not sure we can ever really get anywhere.

How did you become involved with theater?

I got into theater in middle school and continued it through high school. My parents initially wouldn’t support me doing it in college. But, after attending UNT for two years, they supported my transfer to NYU to study theatre. I’ve always done theatre. And, in my experience, theatre (like most art) can be revolutionary. That’s what keeps me going.

What have been the most challenging and also most rewarding aspects of bringing this project to life?

We’ve had the chance to travel the country and interview people from all walks of life. Few people can say they’ve sat inside a Senator’s office to interview him. Few have spoken with national figures on an issue. And, a few weeks ago we attended the NRA convention in Dallas to collect interviews. This whole process has been eyeopening. It’s also been really, really emotional and difficult. With each interview we get, I see how far we are from a solution to gun violence in this country.

For information about the production, click here.