Mildred’s Umbrella Theater Company is one of four Texas theater organizations – and one of more than 50 communities across the country – that will aim to raise awareness about gun violence through a national reading of #ENOUGH: Plays to End Gun Violence on April 20, 2022.
This year’s reading marks the 23rd anniversary of the Columbine High School mass shooting, which was among the first to ignite major discussions about school safety, access to firearms, and youth mental health.
Founded in 2019, #ENOUGH is a national playwrighting competition for teens to “confront gun violence by creating new works of theatre that will spark critical conversations and inspire meaningful action in communities across the country,” according to its website.
“We wanted Houston to be represented in the event, and we think gun violence awareness is really important in Houston, and all over the United States,” said Jennifer Decker, Executive Artistic Director of Mildred’s Umbrella Theater Company.
According to data from the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, there were 10 incidents of gunfire on school grounds in Texas in 2021 and 13 in 2020.
This includes the October 2021 shooting at Houston’s YES Prep Southwest Secondary school and the January 2020 shooting at Bellaire High School. More than three years later, painful memories are still fresh from the May 2018 tragedy at Sante Fe High School, which killed 10 people and injured 13.
From nearly 150 national submissions, eight works by high school students – 10-minute plays that address gun violence through a variety of lenses and experiences – were selected by #ENOUGH’s panel of award-winning playwrights to receive a monetary prize, publication, and performance.
Artists from Mildred’s Umbrella produced film versions of the following six winning plays:
- Rehearsal by Willa Colleary (Los Angeles, CA)
- It’s Okay by Anya Jiménez (Brooklyn, NY)
- Salted Lemonade by Taylor Lafayette (Benoit, MS)
- In My Sights by Tain Leonard-Peck (West Tisbury, MA)
- Undo, Redo by Cameron Thiesing (Louisville, KY)
- Write Their Wrongs by Wyn Alyse Thomas (Buffalo Grove, IL)
The company will also present films produced by Pittsburgh’s Alumni Theater Company of the winning plays Southside Summer by MacKenzie Boyd (Chicago, IL) and Allegiance by Arianna Brumfield (Jackson, MS).
The films will be screened virtually on Mildred’s Umbrella’s Facebook and Vimeo pages from April 19 at 7pm through April 21. The online event is free, but donations to the reading are welcome and will go to Texas Gun Sense, an advocacy organization that works to reduce gun injuries and deaths.
This marks the second year for Mildred’s Umbrella to present the Houston reading of #ENOUGH. Decker points out that the winning plays for both years were mostly written by young women – an aspect that fits the company’s mission to support women in theater, which she says has dovetailed thematically with other social issues and concerns, such as sex trafficking and domestic violence.
After its participation in #Enough, the company’s next major production in May is The Mother Project – a World Premiere based on personal interviews with five African American mothers, midwives, and doulas, “illustrating the joy and heartbreak of being a Black mother in an America that still does not treat all people equally.”
“Sometimes our plays are just stories that happen to be about women, but often, the social justice issues come up in the story, and we embrace them and try to make sure we handle them appropriately,” said Decker.
Full disclosure: Houston Arts Journal’s Catherine Lu serves on the Advisory Board of Mildred’s Umbrella Theater Company.