A Necessary Conversation Takes Unflinching Look at Bullying, Mental Health, Gun Violence and Those Left Behind to Pick Up Pieces
Written by two teachers, Peter Nason and Deborah Bostock-Kelley, A Necessary Conversation features two poignant performances that debuted in 2017 to stellar reviews and positive audience response - Nason's 47 Reasons to Live at the Tampa Fringe Festival and Bostock-Kelley's 11:11 at Tampa Bay Theatre Festival. His tells the tale of the inner workings of a potential school shooter and hers explores the survivors left behind.
After seeing each other's production, Deborah and Peter realized the messages they were writing about were perfect bookends for one another. The gun violence topic was timely and the plays provided an opportunity to start a conversation educators, parents and teenagers should be having.
“When I wrote the play almost 10 years ago, I put it away because something similar to the events in it happened AFTER I was writing it, so it sat in a drawer for years. I tweaked it a few years later, and a student of mine—Caleb Brening—suggested that I send it out,” said Nason. “Little did I know, but the world has gotten crazier, and the events in the play are more pertinent now than they were nearly a decade ago when I wrote it. In some ways, it’s as if I woke up and wrote the play this morning.”
Directed by Nick Hoop, 47 Reasons to Live, a dark reflection on a school shooting, will not leave you like some performances do. Caleb Brening’s performance as James will get under your skin and stay there long after the show ends.
“My play deals with educators trying to figure out what to do with a very troubled student. It poses some very tough questions because that’s the tough world that we face—as teachers, as parents, and as teens,” said Nason. “How do we reach that troubled kid? What do we do to help him…but also to help ensure that those kids who could be affected by his actions remain safe?”
In Bostock-Kelley's 11:11, the play examines how mothers in a grief support group attempt to put on the façade of a normal life after experiencing a parent's worst nightmare - the traumatic and violent loss of a child.
Directed by Bostock-Kelley, 11:11 features the talents of Amy C. Ragg, Monique Brown, David Fraga, and Kym Welch, familiar faces to Tampa Bay community theatre.
“This was written in 2016 after I saw another Facebook post about a child who killed himself because of in school and online bullying. His parents never knew, and only discovered the tormenting he went through after his suicide,” said Bostock-Kelley. “11:11 examines the other side. What if the bullied child couldn’t take it anymore, and something inside just breaks? And what happens to the family left behind?”
In August 2017, Bostock-Kelley submitted an application and applied for a grant and the opportunity to fund their theatre project. In September 2017, she was honored to be one of two recipients awarded Theatre Tampa Bay's Jeff Norton Dream Grant. She reached out to the Straz Center with their concept and the venue graciously helped make their vision a reality.
"Now more than ever, we need to have this dialogue," she said. "Before the digital age, you could go home and get away from the bullies. I can’t imagine being a bullied child today in the technology world. There’s no place to escape. Compounding this topic, no matter what your stance is on guns, gun violence is an epidemic. You just need to log on to social media to learn about another in this series of senseless tragedies. When is the next one too many? How many more hashtag-names-strong do we need before someone says no more?"
A Necessary Conversation features two performances, 3pm and 7pm on January 20. The evening show includes a question and answer talkback session following the production. The talkback panel includes Robert Allen, a father who recently lost his bullied son to suicide; Freddy Barton, Safe and Sound Hillsborough, an organization founded in 2013 to address violence in the family, school, or neighborhood; Wendy Malloy, Tampa volunteer lead, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America; Emily Surak, 2017 Miss America's Teen Miss Central Florida Outstanding Teen who volunteers with Crisis Center and is using her platform to discuss teen suicide prevention; The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay; Ashley Ryan Lord from Anti-Bullying Action Committee for Hillsborough County/ Kids on the Block, and other expert speakers still to be identified.
Everytown- Moms Demand Action, Tampa Chapter is the community partner and the recipient of ticket sales of the evening show.
Both playwrights hope A Necessary Conversation will cause the reflections, the remembrances of over 200 school shootings since 2013 and start the discussion – what can we do to fix a broken child and stop violence before it happens.
A Necessary Conversation will be presented at TECO Theatre January 20. Performances are 3pm and 7pm. The evening show includes question and answer talk-back panel. Tickets for day show are $15 and evening show with talkback are $20. Tickets may be purchased online at www.life-amplified.ticketleap.com/anecessaryconversation012018.
Stay up to date with the performance by liking A Necessary Conversation on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pg/anecessaryconversation012018.