Caridad Svich: Gun Violence Takes Center Stage

0 Flares 0 Flares ×


“Irony of the Second Degree” by Kyle Bostian. Read by Alison Meredith and Craig Walker at Darlinghurst Theatre in Sydney, Australia.  © Stephen Carnell, 2013. 


[The idea that a woman with a gun is a woman with power]. . . is a trope which privileges a masculine ideal. — Caridad Svich 



Read More . . .

“I’m gonna go knock on her door – knock-knock-knock—and when she opens it … I am gonna walk up to her and I’m gonna put the barrel of this revolver right up against her skull… I am. I am gonna do that and then I’m gonna smile at her, smile and lean in real close, all up in her face and I’ll whisper, ‘Was it worth it, CeeCee …’ right before I blow her fucking head off.”   —excerpt from “Cecelia,” a play by Neil LaBute, featured in 24 Gun Control Plays.

Guns are a cultural artifact, writ large. They have become a part of our collective American consciousness almost without notice, a fact that makes the debates over the role of guns in our society difficult to navigate and the issue of gun violence particularly murky. Even so, the troubling normalcy of mass shootings at schools and on college campuses, shootings involving the police, and the polarizing debates over gun control simply underscore our collective responsibility to deal with America’s gun problem.

In 2013, Caridad Svich, the 2012 Obie Award winning playwright, and fellow dramaturg Zac Kline, launched the Gun Control Theatre Action (GCTA) through their NoPassport Alliance. GCTA was set to coincide with the March On Washington for Gun Control, which came on the heels of the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown Connecticut, the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history. The incident, which left 20 children between the ages of six and seven dead, reignited the gun control debate in the United States.

The goal of the GCTA was to create a space for dialogue and healing through art. Dramatists and poets were asked to submit short plays that would be presented at Georgetown University’s Gonda Theatre in Washington D.C. Shortly after the Newtown shooting, a friend and fellow playwright asked Svich if she was planning to write a play addressing gun control. Svich admits to initially feeling a sense of distress and despondency about how theatre might address the issue, but felt it was urgent to speak out, especially since calls for gun control seemed to have fallen on deaf ears. “The GCTA was a kind of turning point,” says Svich, when I met with her to talk about her work relating to gun violence and social activism, “because the laws didn’t change [after the Sandy Hook shooting].”

The new plays took on the issue of gun control and gun violence fearlessly and unflinchingly, asking audiences to witness, reflect, and think critically about their own feelings and beliefs on the culture of guns in the United States. The short works from the GCTA were later collected in the book 24 Gun Control Plays, edited by Kline and Svich and published in 2013 by NoPassport Press, offering readers the opportunity to thoughtfully consider multiple viewpoints on the gun control debate.


Svich, a self-proclaimed “hybrid Latina” who is bilingual, was born in the United States to Cuban-Argentine-Spanish-Croatian parents. The intersection of her American birth and cross-cultural heritage coupled with her nomadic childhood informs her work. She has a built-in outsider lens of sorts that allows her to see things from different perspectives and naturally engage with diverse voices and experiences. It also seems to have fostered a deep connection with voices and experiences that have been othered. Even as a high school student, writing her first plays, her artistic eye sought to illuminate themes of marginalization, human relationships, and reflections of what was going on at the street-level, so to speak, of society.

Her approach, which is inherently collaborative, has been refined over time to one that is “more challenged [by]” and “more awake” to its environment, she says. This malleability underscores Svich’s concern with challenging form. Art that reacts quickly and molds itself with or against whatever it is that is within its view must necessarily be willing to take on different forms and aesthetics. “Art should be nimble,” says Svich.

In the last 15 years, Svich’s work has come to embody this idea of what she calls “hyperlinked dramaturgy”a kind of “rapid response” art that is witnessing and dialoguing with an urgency that parallels the immediacy of day-to-day life. That creative work, she says, seeks to answer questions such as, “Who is hurting and why?” “How do we connect [as people] and why?” ”How do we alienate each other and why?” The plays that emerged from the GCTA sought to engage with gun tragedy by considering these questions so important to Svich’s work.

The complexity of the gun debate makes it challenging to discuss, especially as it relates to women and gun violence. Svich, who was also a contributor to the GCTA, found several pieces particularly resonant. Playwright Neil Blackadder’s piece, “Dad’s Guns,” investigates how guns became a cultural phenomenon, notably through music and film. Similarly, Ian Rowland’s piece, “Troy Story,” explores how the idea of freedom came to be associated with guns.

In the late 19th century the Wild West imagery made its way into stories, novels, and eventually films. Ironically one of the first superstars of the Wild West was Annie Oakleya fixture of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, known for her sharpshooting skills. Svich and I discussed this persistent trope: the idea that a woman with a gun is a woman with power. “It’s a trope which privileges a masculine ideal,” she says. In truth, that idea has no basis in reality. A study cited in a recent article in The Atlantic, “Having a Gun in the House Doesn’t Make a Woman Safer,” found that “females are uniquely impacted by the availability of a firearm.” The study also found that “women with access to firearms become homicide victims at significantly higher rates than men.”


“Gun Play” by Oliver Mayer. Read by Tula Tzoras and Steven McGrath at Darlinghurst Theatre in Sydney, Australia. © Stephen Carnell, 2013. 

Playwrights Gab Cody and Neil LaBute’s contributions to 24 Gun Control Plays both tackle the role gender plays in gun violence and the gun control debates. In “Cecelia,” Neil LaBute, the well-known writer and director, wrote a play that follows a man, angry and raging about his wife who had recently left their marriage. In a single ranty monologue, the main character at once bemoans and degrades his ex-wife, and at the end, tells the audience exactly how he plans to avenge her leaving him: with a shot to the head. In Cody’s “Everyday Villainy,” the source material is autobiographical. In one scene, the three-year-old narrator, her mother, and siblings witness the father character, in a rage, kill the family dog with a shotgun. Later, when the narrator is 21 years old, she learns that her grandmother had been murdered, shot and killed in a domestic dispute, rather than in a car accident as she had always believed.

For Svich, the fact that conversations about gun control and gun violence on both sides of the debate don’t include the experience of women speaks to a kind of “unspoken disregard for the female body” and its “dispensability.” Women are being killed at higher rates by guns and those facts are not reported. This disregard is reflected culturally as well. Crime, drama, and thriller films and television shows are often centered on a bodya woman’s bodyone without agency and one whose death is, for purposes of dramatic television, thrilling.

Svich’s own contribution to the GCTA is a piece called “The Wake.” It is a prayer of sorts for those who have been lost to gun violence. An early stanza reads, “Today, we say/things will be better/We will learn/All hail a better society.” And at the end, “Shout: My sister in Kandahar/Is my nephew in Aurora/Whisper: My future husband in Columbine/ Will be my lover one day in Gaza/ The gun killed them/The same gun.”

The plays resonated deeply with audiences. When I asked Svich about the reactions of audience members to the plays, she said the responses were quite varied, revealing the anger, sadness, and despair that accurately reflects the complicated feelings around this issue. Following the initial action in Washington, D.C., NoPassport staged actions in New York City, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Sydney, and more.

Most recently, she and Kline launched AFTER ORLANDO: An International Theatre Action in response to the June 2016 mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Both the After Orlando Theatre Action and the Gun Control Theatre Action continue to bring the work of the artists and these important conversations to audiences all over the world.

And perhaps, too, this is a welcomed consequence to the art. To remember.

For Svich the end game is not necessarily about changing lawsshe knows how hard it is to do that. For her, the theatre community is a generous space where artists can come together and create art that responds to the issues that are most important to human beings. “Art is empathy,” she tells me. “But it’s also important that it provokes, too. The theatre lives somewhere between the church and the brothel.”

Svich believes the theatre is able to uniquely reflect the fragility of human life and allow us to “tend and attend” to one another in all of our vulnerability and frailty. She hopes her work will provide an alternative narrative to the debateusing stories to provide understanding and ultimately, change.



Bureen Ruffin is a writer and adjunct assistant professor in the Department of English at Pace University. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from the New School. She was born in New York City to Haitian parents. She is currently working on a memoir.





 OF NOTE Magazine is free to readers, free of advertising, and free of subscriptions—all made possible by generous supporters like you. Your tax-deductible gift will help us continue to feature innovative and emerging global artists using the arts as tools for social change.
OF NOTE Magazine is a fiscally sponsored organization of the New York Foundation for the Arts, a 501 (c) (3), tax-exempt organization. All donations are 100% tax-deductible to the full extent of the law.

0 Flares Facebook 0 Twitter 0 0 Flares ×


231 Responses to “Caridad Svich: Gun Violence Takes Center Stage”
  1. you’re in point of fact a excellent webmaster. The website loading pace is amazing. It sort of feels that you are doing any unique trick. Furthermore, The contents are masterpiece. you have performed a wonderful process on this matter!

  2. My husband and i have been now excited that Ervin could deal with his web research because of the precious recommendations he received through your web site. It is now and again perplexing to just possibly be releasing thoughts which often many people might have been trying to sell. We fully grasp we need the blog owner to be grateful to for that. All the explanations you made, the easy blog navigation, the friendships your site help to promote – it is mostly superb, and it’s really helping our son in addition to our family recognize that the content is thrilling, and that’s incredibly important. Thank you for the whole thing!

  3. Piece of writing writing is also a fun, if you know then you can write otherwise it is difficult to write.

  4. Thanks so much for the post.Really thank you! Keep writing.

  5. Pretty! This was an incredibly wonderful article. Thanks for supplying this info.

  6. I truly appreciate this post. I have been looking everywhere for this! Thank God I found it on Google. You ave made my day! Thanks again!

  7. kabansale watch was too easy before, however right now it is pretty much impossible

  8. You must participate in a contest for top-of-the-line blogs on the web. I will advocate this website!

  9. Usually I don at learn post on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very compelled me to check out and do so! Your writing taste has been surprised me. Thanks, very nice post.

  10. Thanks for the article.Much thanks again. Want more.

  11. My husband and i felt absolutely relieved Raymond managed to round up his basic research with the precious recommendations he made through your blog. It is now and again perplexing to simply continually be making a gift of facts others may have been selling. And now we recognize we need the writer to give thanks to because of that. The illustrations you made, the straightforward website navigation, the relationships you help to promote – it’s many excellent, and it’s really letting our son and our family consider that that article is fun, which is certainly highly fundamental. Thank you for all the pieces!

  12. hello there and thank you for your information – I’ve certainly picked up something new from right here. I did however expertise several technical issues using this web site, since I experienced to reload the web site many times previous to I could get it to load correctly. I had been wondering if your web host is OK? Not that I am complaining, but sluggish loading instances times will often affect your placement in google and can damage your high quality score if advertising and marketing with Adwords. Anyway I am adding this RSS to my email and can look out for a lot more of your respective intriguing content. Ensure that you update this again very soon..

  13. Hiya, I am really glad I have found this information. Nowadays bloggers publish just about gossips and net and this is really frustrating. A good site with interesting content, that’s what I need. Thank you for keeping this website, I will be visiting it. Do you do newsletters? Can’t find it.

  14. ekonomski says:

    This is one awesome blog post. Fantastic.

  15. I was suggested this blog by my cousin. I am not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my difficulty. You are amazing! Thanks!

  16. There is certainly a great deal to learn about this issue. I love all the points you made.

  17. Google says:

    Here are some links to web pages that we link to for the reason that we believe they’re really worth visiting.

  18. I simply had to thank you so much again. I’m not certain the things I could possibly have followed without the entire tricks discussed by you about my subject matter. It was a traumatic situation for me personally, but discovering a expert fashion you managed that made me to leap with delight. I will be happy for your work and have high hopes you find out what a powerful job you are always putting in educating the rest thru your web blog. Most likely you have never met any of us.

  19. visual art says:

    My brother recommended I might like this web site. He was totally right. This post truly made my day. You cann’t imagine simply how much time I had spent for this info! Thanks!

  20. I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good. I do not know who you are but definitely you’re going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already 😉 Cheers!

  21. Thank you for any other fantastic post. The place else may just anyone get that kind of information in such a perfect manner of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I’m on the search for such information.

  22. Google says:

    Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine a few unrelated data, nevertheless actually worth taking a appear, whoa did a single discover about Mid East has got more problerms as well.

  23. Style says:

    Generally I don’t read article on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very compelled me to try and do it! Your writing taste has been surprised me. Thank you, very great post.

  24. I think this is among the most important information for me. And i am glad reading your article. But should remark on few general things, The site style is ideal, the articles is really nice : D. Good job, cheers

  25. Hello. remarkable job. I did not imagine this. This is a splendid story. Thanks!


0 Flares Facebook 0 Twitter 0 0 Flares ×