Art Kaiser as Alex in Line of Sight
Photo by Hillary Olson Photography
Since its start in 2015, Uprising Theatre has grown from producing three plays in two years to four plays in one, and this year, it is using its platform of social justice art and partnerships to focus on one issue: gun violence.
To kick off the season, Uprising will be debuting a piece founder and artistic director Shannon TL Kearns wrote, called Line of Sight, playing at Off Leash Area Box from Feb. 15 through March 2. The play was inspired by a September 2018 active shooter drill in Virginia that allegedly left one transgender student in the hallway because the safe spaces were organized by gender.
“I started thinking about what it’s like being a trans kid in school and how in this moment, while everyone’s in danger, this kid was in even more danger because the system wasn’t set up to protect them,” Kearns says.
In Line of Sight, we follow Alex, a student who has slowly built hate inside of him as he continues to feel alienated, hated, and ostracized by those around him. And then, suddenly, with some supernatural help, he has a choice to change things when all has seemed to go horribly wrong. As Kearns was writing the play, he drew some insight from his own experiences as a transgender male, but he also looked toward his conversations with youth as well as the book Columbine by Dave Cullen.
Like all of Uprising Theatre’s productions, the company has teamed up with community partners so audience members can continue the play’s conversations afterward and, just perhaps, turn those conversations into actions. The season partner will be the Minnesota chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America (MDA), a nonpartisan group that works around gun issues, and for Line of Sight, the show-specific partner will be Students Demand Action, an offshoot of MDA.
The show’s press release reads, “The world-premiere production is the first of four plays in Uprising’s 2018-19 season to explore the gun violence epidemic—each show looking at the ubiquitous problem from a different perspective and lens—and brings the company’s complicated, nuanced, and conversation-provoking style to this deadly issue.”
The other announced shows include a reflection on the lifelong relationship one person has had with guns (The Gun Show, May 3-18) or the differing opinions that even like-minded people can have around gun control (Friends with Guns, a rolling world premiere on Sept. 20-Oct. 5). All of the announced works are dated 2014 or newer, keeping in line with Kearns’ hope that they are as relevant and current as possible in today’s landscape.
Even with the varied premises, it’s a heavy statement of intention that Uprising Theatre has made. It’s one thing to extrapolate on someone else’s perspective as a means to convert people to your own opinion. It’s another to have a work or a season that portrays messy resolutions, unanswered questions, and the acceptance that not everyone will think the same way—without creating villains or ignorant characters. With four productions, we can only wait and see, and I wish them the best of luck.