"GUNPLAYS" is a series of five plays by William Electric Black addressing inner city violence and guns. The idea of the plays is to generate understanding the social forces behind this scourge that our society has so far been helpless to resist. The debut productions of all five plays in the series were presented by Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave., New York City.
Black launched the GUNPLAYS series in 2013 with "Welcome Home Sonny T," a drama that spotlighted two significant forces driving the 21st century epidemic of American gun violence: the social impact of alienation and unemployment on young black males and the declining influence of black ministers as a force of stability in affected neighborhoods. The second play in the series, "When Black Boys Die" (2015), was a family drama in whcih a teenage girl tries to understand the madness of gun violence that has killed her brother and consumed her mother. The third, presented by Theater for the New City for 2016 Gun Awareness Month, was "Death of a Black Man (A Walk By)," a play with hip hop verse, chanting, songs and poetry in which the audience moved around through a neighborhood that experienced gun violence. The fourth, "The Faculty Room" (2017), was a drama that swallowed its audience into a schoolhouse in a mandatory lock down because of an imminent gunfight among students there. The final play, "Subway Story (A Shooting)" (2018) combined music, poetry, dialogue, movement, and immersive theater in a way that made it the most unique staging of all five plays in the series.
Preceding this series, William Electric Black's record with "activist" plays was already admirable. In 2009, he had directed Theater for the New City's sensational and serious "Lonely Soldier Monologues: Women at War in Iraq," a staged series of monologues based on a book by Helen Benedict. The play earned widespread notice and significantly helped the issues of America's female soldiers to be widely recognized for the first time.
The GUNPLAYS project also includes a children's book, "A Gun Is Not Fun." Mr. Black is seeking community groups, businesses, government agencies, school systems, hospitals, and churches to underwrite the cost of printing so that children in Pre-K/1st & 2nd grade can get free copies.