CoHo Season 21
September 9 – October 1, 2016
CoHo Productions with Shawn Lee & Vin Shambry present
The Gun Show
by E.M. Lewis
Directed by Shawn Lee
Featuring Vin Shambry
with E.M. Lewis
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
Playwright E.M. Lewis sits with the audience while Performer Vin Shambry shares her stories – just five gun stories in a country full of gun stories. Her words. His voice. Our story.
She grew up in rural Oregon, where everyone has guns. She learned to shoot on a date. She worked at Jackson’s Bookstore during an armed robbery, and once encountered a threatening cop in New York. And then there’s the fifth story: the one that doesn’t let go, the story that triggered this show.
The Gun Show takes aim at America’s most dangerous past-time with brutal honesty and poignant humor. Leaning neither right nor left, it jumps into the middle of the gun control debate and asks “Can we have a conversation about this?”
Gun Talks will follow each performance. Audience members may share their own gun stories together with the artists and community members in a moderated conversation (not a debate) about issues raised in the production, including safety, violence, control and personal gun stories.
PRESS COVERAGE (All Photo Credits to Owen Carey)
American Theatre Magazine – 19 Political Shows to See This Fall
Oregon Public Broadcasting, State of Wonder – Interview with E.M. Lewis and Vin Shambry
KBOO Radio, Stage & Studio – Interview with E.M. Lewis and Vin Shambry
Adventures in Artslandia – Podcast Interview with E.M. Lewis, Vin Shambry & Susannah Mars
“I didn’t want more shouting with fingers in ears. What seemed to happen in the room, is that after the performer told the story, people were willing toshare their own personal stories. We didn’t validate one story over another…But both people’s willingness to share their own stories, even more importantly people’s willingness to listen to each other’s stories in the wake of seeing the play, made me feel for our ability to get somewhere on this difficult subject.”
Portland Monthly, What Can This Playwright’s Story Say about Guns in America? – Preview by Rebecca Jacobson
“like a lot of people, I’ve had a variety of experiences with guns and am conflicted about guns. This is not a far right or a far left play. This is a grappling with guns in American society, and trying to figure out if there’s some way to come to terms with their presence, or some way in which we can make them a little bit more safe for us. It’s not an all-or-nothing proposition.” -E.M. Lewis
Oregon Arts Watch, Under The Gun in Ory-Gun – Preview by A.L. Adams
“Either despite or because of the fact that her script’s stories are that personal, Lewis has chosen to always cast a male actor who’s by her own admission “tougher” than she to narrate the tales. “I’m too much of a Betty Crocker type,” she says. “The voice I was writing in sounded very masculine to me.” With even the term “gun show” becoming evermore synonymous with men showing off muscles, Lewis’s creative choice certainly jibes with the prevailing expectation, yet it presents interesting challenges in delivery, as evidenced while Shambry rehearses the show.”
Oregon Arts Watch, The Great American Gun Divide – Review by Marty Hughley
“…galvanic performance by Shambry. He’s charming, warm, funny, vehement, volcanic, tender, precise … he serves admirably as mouthpiece for the white, middle-aged playwright, allowing us to see her in these stories, yet he doesn’t banish his own presence, that of a leonine young black man, with a different upbringing but a similar care and concern about the issue…It’s a remarkably committed and affecting performance, intense yet with a quality like a set of shifting transparencies, a convincing illusion pulled off even as he explains the trick to you.”
“‘No way to prevent this,’ says only nation where this regularly happens.” It seems nearly every day, someone posts that Onion article in the wake of a mass shooting, and yet America remains a country in thrall to the political power of the NRA, despite clear support for common sense gun control. E.M. Lewis’ The Gun Show takes on our gun obsession, recounting experiences like growing up in a rural, gun-crazy culture and surviving an armed robbery. It’s about as timely as you can get. And given that Lewis’ solo show will be performed by Vin Shambry, one of the city’s best actors, it’s downright essential.”
Broadway World, The Gun Show Challenges Us to have a Reasonable Conversation about a Divisive Issue – Review by Krista Garver
“These are personal stories of a woman who has a lot of experience with guns, who understands both their appeal and their danger, and who, because she sees both sides, feels stuck in the middle. She doesn’t ask us to support one side or the other. She simply asks to think about both of them and realize that there is a lot of room in the chasm between open carry laws and banning guns entirely.”
The post-play discussion portion (“Gun Talks”) is a bold move and won’t be a hit with everyone. At the performance I went to, a few people squirmed, and a few others appeared annoyed, but the crowd largely seemed engaged and curious. Audience members spoke up about using guns in the armed forces, having lost loved ones to gun violence and suicide, and having loved ones who were still alive because they had guns for protection. Gun Talks was uncomfortable, but it would be hard to argue that it didn’t enhance the play. Seeing the range of relationships to guns in one small theater changed the effect of what just happened onstage, and required everyone to consider it from a different angle.
The Gun Show premiered in July 2014 in Chicago at the 16th Street Theatre. This critically acclaimed production was extended and eventually received a Jeff Award Nomination for Best Solo Show. The Gun Show subsequently became a critical hit in Los Angeles in the fall of 2014 and was nominated for 2015 Stage Raw Los Angeles Theatre Award Best Solo Show. It received an East Coast Premiere in Trenton, New Jersey at Passage Theatre. The most recent productions have been in Berkeley, California at Impact Theatre and Santa Barbara at Center Stage Theatre. This Coho co-production will be the Pacific Northwest premiere, and more significantly, a “coming home” show for local playwright, EM Lewis.
ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT
E.M. Lewis is an award-winning playwright, librettist, and teacher of playwriting. She was a finalist for the 2014 Shakespeare’s Sister Fellowship. She received the Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University in 2010-2011, and a fellowship from the New Jersey State Arts Commission in 2012. She won the ATCA/Steinberg Award for her play “Song of Extinction,” which also received the Ted Schmitt Award for Outstanding Writing of a World Premiere Play from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle. She won the Primus Prize for her play “Heads.” Her work has been produced around the world, and is published by Samuel French. http://emlewisplaywright.com/
ABOUT THE CO-PRODUCERS
Shawn Lee (Co-Producer, Director) has 20 years of experience producing theatre, including 25 productions as co-founder and co-artistic director with Furious Theatre in LA. Recently he relocated to Portland to become the Artistic Producer at Artists Repertory Theatre, producing 11 shows to date, as well as coordinating and producing shows for Profile Theatre, Portland Shakespeare Project, Risk/Reward, Hand2Mouth, Tiempo Libre concerts, Corrib Theatre, Phame, and many other solo projects.
“I was given the script for The Gun Show in its developmental phase before moving to Portland and have never stopped thinking about it. Lewis’ play speaks to me as an artist and as a human being. I feel compelled to tell her story. EM Lewis and I have similar backgrounds growing up with guns: her in rural Oregon and me in rural Missouri, where guns were an everyday part of our lives. Since leaving Missouri and meeting my wife and having a family, my relationship with guns has become more complex. I do not understand what is happening in our society when my son has “bad guy” drills at his elementary school and is instructed to hide and be quiet by his teacher. Shootings have become so commonplace in our society that these have become standard school safety procedures. Yet, I do not know what to say to my son. My hope is that The Gun Show will start the discussion.” -Shawn Lee
Vin Shambry (Co-Producer, Performer) is honored to be part of this important and powerful show, as well as to work with CoHo for the first time. As a local Portlander himself, it is especially meaningful to tell this story of rural Oregon, particularly during this time in our nation, and as a black man. Vin is a resident artist at Artist Repertory Theater and has performed in numerous local shows at Portland Center Stage, Portland Playhouse, Oregon Children’s Theater, Staged, Portland Opera, and Artists Repertory Theater. Before returning home to Portland, Vin performed on Broadway as Tom Collins in Rent and John in Miss Saigon, and toured nationally with Rent, Miss Saigon, Honk and Big River.
Vin was recently voted Portland’s Best Actor by Willamette Weekly reader’s poll (2016), has won three Portland Drammys (2011), and an Audelco Award for Best Actor in a Play for Black Man Rising (2006). Vin has a BFA in Musical Theatre from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in NYC (2005). Vin also moonlights as a live storyteller at the Moth, Back Fence PDX and Entertainment for People, and is working on a collection of short stories about his childhood. In his day jobs, Vin directs and choreographs youth performances in local schools.
“Having the opportunity to step into E.M. Lewis’ s words is truly breathtaking. She so eloquently captures her own truth, while simultaneously leading us to confront our own.” -Vin Shambry