Education @ Roundabout

On The Exhale: Guns on Campus

Posted on: February 28th, 2017 by Roundabout


“Based on current trends, the problem is likely to become much graver over the next decade. It is imperative that lawmakers, policymakers, college administrators, law enforcement and others begin to have a serious dialogue and enact meaningful reforms to address this epidemic and make America’s colleges safe again.” — Citizens Crime Commission of New York City

Spotlight on Virginia Tech
On April 16, 2007, one of America’s deadliest mass shooting incidents occurred on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg, Virginia. Student Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people and wounded 17 others in two separate attacks, before killing himself. Cho was found to have a troubled history of mental health that had not been adequately addressed or disclosed by the University.

The official review panel survey, known as the Massengill Report, included in-depth inquiry of the shooter’s mental health and mistakes made by both the college and the state that allowed this event to happen. It described “major gaps” in the mental health system that “prevent individuals from getting the psychiatric help when they are getting ill, during the need for acute stabilization, and when they need therapy and medication management during recovery.” The Massengill Report offered recommendations to universities about their responsibility to identify and address mental illness and protect the wider student body from troubled individuals.

One year after the shooting, a study of U.S. campuses found that 64% of schools were paying “greater attention and respect” to the needs of security and safety. Mental health of the campus community became a higher priority for college administrators. Research by psychologists demonstrated that campus shootings result in post-traumatic stress disorder for school personnel, including teachers and administrators, in addition to students, and recommended that everyone impacted by such events receive counseling or treatment.

The Virginia Tech shootings ignited a national debate about the right to carry weapons on college and other school campuses. Gun control proponents pointed at the ease with which a mentally unsound individual was able to purchase two semi-automatic pistols, despite state laws that should have prevented such purchase.

The Massengill Report recommended state legislation to allow college campuses to regulate the possession of firearms and went on to recommend campus gun bans, "unless mandated by law." The report also recommended wider gun control measures such as stronger background check requirements for all private firearms sales, including those at gun shows. In 2008, Governor Tim Kaine attempted to enact a law requiring background checks. Less than a year after the tragedy, despite passionate support from survivors of the event, the bill was defeated by a bipartisan committee of Virginia’s State Senate. However, Kaine did work with the legislature to close a loophole that had allowed the shooter to buy a gun even though a judge had declared him mentally ill two years earlier.

Opponents of gun control asserted that the school’s gun-free "safe zone" policy prevented students and faculty from being armed and able to defend themselves or stop the killer. In addition to increased advocacy for guns on campuses by the National Rifle Association, the event spurred student gun advocates to organize. A nationwide group, Students for Concealed Carry, started on Facebook and has grown to over 36,000 members today. The student-run group advocates for legal concealed carry on college campuses, as a means of self-defense in incidents like Virginia Tech. Today, SCC works to “push state legislators and school administrators to grant concealed handgun license holders the same rights on college campuses that those licensees currently enjoy in most other unsecured locations.”

In 2008, the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, Inc. (IACLEA) issued a statement declaring their belief that allowing concealed guns would not make campuses safer, but rather would have the potential to dramatically increase violence on college and university campuses.

Virginia Tech shooting candlelight vigil.

The Big Picture: An Increase in Campus Shootings.
A recent study of campus shootings nationwide looked at 190 incidents at 142 colleges between 2001 and 2016, which demonstrated an increasing percentage of campus shootings over time.

Sept 2001 - June 2006: 40 recorded shootings on or near college campuses.
Sept 2006 - June 2011: 49 incidents (including Virginia Tech)
Sept 2011 - June 2015: 101 incidents (153% increase)

The victims:
290 students
5 former students
40 college employees
77 not associated with the college
25 with undetermined relationship to school

167 people were killed
270 people were wounded

Who were the shooters?
59% not associated with the school
28% students
9% former students
4% employees

12 states experienced more than 5 shooting incidents on or near college campuses. States with the most incidents were Tennessee (14), California (14), Virginia (13), Georgia (13), North Carolina (11) and Florida (11). The increase in incidents was most profound for colleges in states with increased access to guns.

The study conducted by the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, recommends:

Real reforms must be enacted in order to make America’s students safer.
The Clery Act (requiring colleges that receive federal funding to report criminal offenses) should be amended to require reporting of all shooting incidents occurring on college campuses and incidents involving students near college campuses.
State legislators should enact common-sense gun laws that make it harder for guns to get into the hands of so many people on or near college campuses (including one-gun-a-month law, training and license requirements, universal background checks, and strict carrying guidelines).
Closer collaboration between colleges and local law enforcement is needed.
Increased education for students and parents on the issues.
U.S. News & World Report and other college-raters should include gun violence statistics in their college rankings to better inform the public.

GUNS ON CAMPUS: State-by-state
Among the many controversies about guns in U.S. society, the right to carry concealed weapons on school campuses emerged as a point of debate after 2007. While the majority of U.S. public colleges still prohibit guns, the states of Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin have passed laws allowing the carrying of firearms on campus premises, including classrooms, dormitories, or parking lots.

Across these states, colleges have differing authority to determine gun policies. For example, Texas still allows each school to determine sensitive areas and buildings where concealed weapons will continue to be prohibited. But the Attorney General of Kansas recently denied a request by the University of Kansas to ban guns on certain parts of campus, such as high security areas containing dangerous materials.

Learn more about campus guns on a state-by-state basis here:

Moms Demand Action
In 2015, in response to the devastating school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Moms Demand Action was founded by Shannon Watts. The grassroots organization quickly grew, with chapters in all 50 states. The group supports the 2nd Amendment but advocates for common-sense solutions to decrease gun violence. Through its efforts, the group helped keep guns out of schools in Virginia, North Dakota, Kentucky, Florida, and Alaska. The organization also reaches out to educators, to work on opposition to gun proliferation in schools.

Learn more about Moms Demand Action here:

On the Exhale is now playing at the Black Box Theatre at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre. Visit our website for tickets and more information.

Related Categories:
2016-2017 Season, Education @ Roundabout, On the Exhale, Roundabout Underground, Upstage

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On the Exhale: Solo Plays

Posted on: February 24th, 2017 by Roundabout


Marin Ireland in ON THE EXHALE. Photo by Joan Marcus.

A solo show (often also known as a “one person show”) can take many different forms, from just a comedian musing on stage to a piece of performance art. When we think of a solo show, many of us think of something biographical or a memoir. This is because the genre is dominated by this type of storytelling. Some famous examples include Elaine Stritch at Liberty, where Stritch documented her life, and actor John Leguizamo’s semi-autobiographical solo shows on Broadway, which drew on his life experiences to create explosive storytelling. With one performer, the storytelling can lend itself to being more insular, for the performer to open up to an audience in an intimate setting. On the other hand, actors such as Whoopi Goldberg have also used the opportunity of a solo show to show their versatility, playing hundreds of different characters. On the Exhale charts a slightly different course—it is a full play that happens to be performed by just one actor, who is telling an original, fictional story. But what is it that makes the solo show so enduring? In an age of big, bombastic shows, why tell a story in this format?


On a practical level, solo shows are usually simple to assemble and cost-effective. You do not have to worry about paying a large multitude of actors, and sets are often cheaper. Also, budgetary concerns of theatres have limited cast sizes over the last ten years. In an article for the New York Times in 2007, Todd Haimes, Artistic Director of Roundabout, stated that “a new playwright now, no matter how talented, would never write a play for 15 people because it wouldn’t get produced... [B]y virtue of the constrained budgets theaters have we’ve changed the style of playwriting. Arthur Miller wouldn’t write The Crucible today.” But does this mean you would opt immediately for a solo show? Not necessarily. In the same article, James Nicola, Artistic Director of New York Theatre Workshop (NYTW), had a slightly different view: “if you are comparing a solo piece to something with 12 actors and three musicians there is a huge difference in budget… but a four-person play as compared to a one-person play— the savings is some, but not huge. The bulk of production expenses are for advertising, design, printing expenses; those prices are the same whether there is one person on stage or 20.” That being said, an average four-person show at NYTW costs $300,000, whereas a solo show will cost around $250,000, which is still a considerable saving. Fast forward ten years, and in terms of budgeting, it does not seem like much has changed. For On the Exhale, Roundabout estimates that the show will save $85,000- $100,000 compared to a normal Underground show. The savings made are not just on actor budgets, but also costume costs, set design (as one person shows tend to be less set heavy) and labor (teching a show with one actor will be considerably quicker).


But simplicity and practicality are not the most important ingredients for doing a solo show. On the Exhale will be the first solo show at Roundabout since 2009, when Carrie Fisher performed Wishful Drinking. Before that show, the most recent solo shows at Roundabout were Beyond Glory with Stephen Lang (2007) and An Almost Holy Picture with Kevin Bacon (2002). Wishful Drinking was an autobiographical romp through Fisher’s past, while Beyond Glory looked at the courage behind servicemen who were awarded the Medal of Honor. An Almost Holy Picture had Bacon playing a priest, and On the Exhale explores gun violence. So what binds all these disparate plays together? Simply, the ability to provide intimacy and a compelling relationship with the audience, to really engage with them on a visceral level, which you often cannot get through larger casts. In almost any solo show, the performer constantly breaks the fourth wall, and many shows are completely in direct address to the audience, so there is a constant immediacy with the performer. In the words of NYTW’s Nicola, with a solo show “there is an energy in the room of authentic experience being conveyed that is not like anything else.”

On the Exhale is now playing at the Black Box Theatre at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre. Visit our website for tickets and more information.

Related Categories:
2016-2017 Season, Education @ Roundabout, On the Exhale, Roundabout Underground, Upstage

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If I Forget: The U.S. Before 9/11

Posted on: February 22nd, 2017 by Roundabout


The Rise of the Internet
Today, we pull smartphones out of our pockets to look up information, stream music, and watch videos. But back in 2000, the most common way to access the Internet was through a desktop (or one of the new laptops) computer with a wired connection. WiFi hotspots, tablets, smartphones, social media, and most streaming video were all several years away.

While what we think of as the Internet--a network that allows computer networks around the world to communicate with one another--began in the 1960s, it didn’t become a part of American public life until the 1990s.

The Internet became available to the American public in 1992. Households could get Internet access for the low price of $10 for four hours, or $20 for 20 hours of use. Most Americans had dial-up access, which used existing phone lines and infrastructure to connect to the internet. Users couldn’t talk on the phone and surf the web simultaneously, and connections were slow. It could take up to 20 minutes for a single, image-heavy page to load.

Web browsers with graphic interfaces, which made accessing the Internet user-friendly, were introduced in 1993, the same year the White House launched a website., Yahoo, eBay, Javascript, Internet Explorer, and Microsoft Windows all launched in 1995. AOL Instant Messaging, or AIM, debuted in 1997, giving millions of teens and tweens a new way to communicate (and miscommunicate) with their crushes. These programs caused a boom in Internet popularity: in 1995, just 14% of American adults used the Internet, but by 2000, 46% did.

Qualcomm Cell Phone, 2000

Cell Phones Circa 2000
Though the first cell phone went on the market in 1983 (and cost $4,000!), cell phones didn’t take off until around 1996. Up until that time, teens used pagers, which receive numeric messages on a small screen, to communicate. That began to change when competition drove down the price of cell phone plans, and the phones themselves became sleeker and smaller. The 1997 Nokia 6110 was one of the first phones without an antennae, and it came in four colors and offered paging capabilities.

In 1999, one-third of American adults owned a cellphone. The first phone with internet capabilities was introduced that year, though the tiny, greyscale screen made meaningful browsing difficult. Most phones didn’t have full keyboards: users simply pressed numeric keys repeatedly until the desired letter was reached. The average plan cost $40/month, and text messages weren’t included.

Bush-Gore Election
In the 2000 presidential election, Republican George W. Bush, governor of Texas and son of President George H.W. Bush, ran against Democratic Vice President Al Gore. Activist and attorney Ralph Nader ran as the Green Party candidate. The campaigns centered on domestic issues, including President Bill Clinton’s extramarital affair and impeachment trial, as well as the economy.

The election was the closest in United States history. Victory came down to whichever candidate captured Florida’s electoral votes, and early reports said Gore won the state; later reports declared Bush the winner. Gore actually called Bush to concede, but later called back to retract his concession. Official tallies showed only 600 votes separated the candidates, few enough to trigger a mandatory statewide machine recount. After the recount only 327 votes separated the candidates. The Gore campaign sued for a hand recount of votes in several counties, which raised questions about the design of the ballot and voter intent in unclear ballots. After several legal challenges, the Florida Supreme Court ordered a manual recount of ballots that voting machines registered as not indicating any presidential candidate. The Bush campaign appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which reversed the ruling. Bush was declared the winner of Florida’s electoral votes and became the 43rd president of the United States.

Jim Lehrer moderating Bush v. Gore presidential debate

If I Forget is now playing at the Laura Pels Theatre at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre. Visit our website for tickets and more information.

Related Categories:
2016-2017 Season, Education @ Roundabout, If I Forget, Upstage

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