The Beaver County Times – SEWICKLEY — We need to talk about guns.
That’s the belief of EM Lewis, who hopes her one-man play, “The Gun Show (Can We Talk About This?),” sparks a healthy dialogue and bridges the political divide as it opens Wednesday in its third location, the Tull Family Theater in Sewickley.
Lewis insists her show doesn’t come from the political left or the right. She weaves together five personal stories about her complex relationship to gun culture in the hourlong performance that’s followed by a structured 15-minute audience discussion.
In a press release from Pittsburgh’s Quantum Theatre, producers of the show, Lewis indicates she wants “The Gun Show (Can We Talk About This?)” to serve as a starting point, noting that proponents of positions right and left on the subject of guns “talk past each other,” with certainty and uncompromising opinions. The more both sides dig in, the less that gets accomplished despite the common desire for safety.
“What’s stopping us from figuring this out?” Lewis said. As one line in the play says, “The commentary is killing the conversation.”
To emphasize that this show offers a “safe space” for viewpoints to be aired freely, Quantum chose three distinctly different neighborhoods in which to stage it: Homewood (at the Carnegie Library); Pittsburgh’s North Side (Community College of Allegheny County); and now Sewickley, at the Tull.
“We sought places of community learning and community convening,” the play’s director, Sheila McKenna, said.
The Tull’s executive director, Carolina Thor, said, “Having Quantum Theatre here aligns with our mission of strengthening cultural, educational and entertainment opportunities northwest of Pittsburgh.”
If the play was like a film, which is what’s normally offered at the Tull, it would earn an R-rating for strong language.
It’s the first live theatrical performance at the Tull, and the farthest Quantum has ventured from Pittsburgh in its 29-year history.
“For many in our audience base, this will be their first experience with Quantum Theatre,” Thor said. “Hosting the play here makes it accessible to them.”
“The Gun Show’s” singular cast member is Andrew W. Smith, who premiered the role in New York’s Women in Theatre Festival with Project Y Theatre Company and previously appeared in Quantum’s “The Hard Problem” and “The River.”
The narrative “is dominated by political sound bites and simple solutions,” according to Quantum, which has built its reputation on edgy, eclectic shows.
In Lewis, Quantum chose a playwright who won the Francesca Primus Prize in 2014 for her play “Heads,” staged by the Playhouse Rep at Point Park University, and whose “Magellanica” staged by Artists Repertory Theater in her native Portland, Ore., was covered by The New Yorker.
“The Gun Show” performances at the Tull will take place at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 28, March 1 and March 2; and 6:30 p.m. March 3. The Sewickley premiere on Wednesday is already sold out.