Anywhere you look in the arts, you tend to find a lot of anti-gun sentiment. Considering how many actors and musicians have been killed by crazed fans, you’d imagine they’d take the idea of self-defense and guns seriously, but many lean in the opposite direction.
It’s so bad that when I see something about a theater company looking to do a gun-focused production, I already know what position it’s going to take.
In this case, it appears that instinct was wrong.
A Philadelphia theater company is devising a new work about guns in America. It started by putting itself in the heart of Pennsylvania gun culture.
To develop “The Great American Gunshow,” Team Sunshine Performance Corporation spent months in rural Susquehanna County, near Bloomberg, Pa., surrounded by state game lands.
The artistic team first interviewed an extended family with a strong tradition of hunting going back generations. Aged roughly 25 to 70, all of them were gun owners.
Lead artist Makoto Hirano assumed the family members would have similar feelings about guns. He was quickly proven wrong.
“Within the first 20 minutes, I was, like, ‘Oh, there we go’ – disagreement already within the family about gun laws, gun enforcement, concealed carry laws, open carry laws,” said Hirano. “As city, non-gun owning people, we had so many assumptions about rural gun-owning people. We had to scratch that off right off the list, right from the get-go.”
Now, it’s easy to look just this far and think, “Here we go again.”
However, Hirano himself isn’t anti-gun.
“I got familiar with guns then, and it was fun,” said Hirano. “It was fun to shoot. I generally thought they were fine as a tool.”
Hirano associates guns with personal protection, particularly as an Asian American in sometimes hostile environments.
What this production appears to be–it’s described as evolving and interactive–is an honest attempt to look at both sides of the gun debate. That’s something few artists are interested in doing. They simply echo their preferred narrative with no interest in delving any deeper.
This seems…different, and that’s a good thing.
Look, I’m vehemently pro-gun and pro-Second Amendment. Yet I think people should get to hear both sides of the debate. I believe that if both are presented honestly and accurately, our side will come out on top and more people will support the right to own guns and other arms.
Yet most theater productions won’t do that.
Now, this one, called The Great American Gun Show, may not either. Yet it appears that Hirano wants feedback and will be encompassing that into the production, which means pro-gun voices have a change it for the better.
Frankly, it’s kind of refreshing to see.
The question is how sincere Hirano is in what he said and how the rest of the troupe feels. If everyone is open and honest and sincere about listening to people, you’ll start to get something that might actually be useful.
Otherwise, well, it’s unlikely to make anything actually worse, now is it?