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Theatre department takes ‘The Gun Show’ on the road around the state

The Michigan premiere production of The Gun Show, a non-partisan play about guns and America’s gun culture, is set to take center stage at venues throughout the state, including Michigan State University, thanks to the collaborative efforts of Rob Roznowski, professor and head of acting in MSU’s Department of Theatre, and the Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence.

Written by playwright E. Lewis, The Gun Show is a one-actor performance that explores the unique perspective and relationship Lewis has with guns.

The narrative leans neither left nor right but instead centers on the question: Can we talk about this?

The Michigan premiere, produced and directed by Roznowski, stars MSU acting senior Jala Jackson.

Besides the MSU campus, the production will appear at venues in Battle Creek, Detroit, Elk Rapids, Flint, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Saint Joseph and Williamston beginning Sunday, Feb. 9.

“The show is a really balanced look at American gun culture,” Roznowski said. “I love how it is non-partisan and certainly wants to talk to people in the middle of this debate.”

Debuting in 2014 at the 16th Street Theater in Chicago, The Gun Show consists of five stories about Lewis and her connection to firearms. This will be the first solo show as well as the first traveling show for Jackson, who started acting when she was 6 years old.

“The number of casualties is rising and tragedies like mass shootings increase the fear and hysteria in the country,” Jackson said. “This play sits everyone down and does something that nobody is doing...we are talking about guns. It's not a solution. It's not a plan. But we are getting the conversation started.”

Roznowski partnered on the project with the Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, which booked the play around the state.

“The show has been widely produced previously, and yes, I wish it could be nationwide because it does — in a non-partisan, really non-threatening way — ask the question: ‘Can we talk about this?’” said Linda Brundage, executive director of the Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence. “Rather than having either side sit in their corners shouting, let’s have a discussion.”

This isn’t the first time Roznowski has worked with the Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence.

“Rob directed a student production of a play, called Punk Rock, which has a very intensive gun violence scene,” Brundage said. “Rob contacted us to give a presentation to the actors of the play so they could have a more in-depth understanding of gun violence and bring that understanding into their performance.”

This past summer, when Roznowski read the script for The Gun Show, he knew he wanted to partner with the Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence once more to bring this play to Michigan audiences.

“I knew it would be a great fit,” Roznowski said, “so I offered the Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence the show, and they have been booking it around the state.”

So far, nine performances are scheduled throughout Michigan.

The next performance will take place at Michigan State University in Studio 60 of the MSU Auditorium Building at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15. Two other performances also are being planned for MSU’s Summer Circle Theatre in June.

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