Molly Smith, the artistic director of Arena Stage, remembers exactly how she felt when she first heard news of the shootings in Newtown, Conn.: “It was as if the unthinkable had happened.” Her partner, American Indian activist Suzanne Blue Star Boy, said, “Somebody needs to do a march,” and Smith realized who those somebodies needed to be. “Within the next day, we decided that we needed to lead a march, to get people together to make this happen.”
The resulting March on Washington for Gun Control (which has no affiliation with Arena Stage, Smith said she’s doing this “as a private citizen”) will take place on Saturday starting at 10 a.m. It “is absolutely focused on legislative change,” said Smith, rattling off the list of what she hopes the rally can help achieve: “Reinstating the assault weapons ban, banning high-capacity ammunition magazines, requiring background checks, focusing on gun-safety training and outlawing bullets that shatter in the body.”
The march begins at the Reflecting Pool on Third Street NW and ends by the Washington Monument. Its expected cost is $49,000 (for the sound system, stage, first-aid tent, some advertising, water and more); Smith estimates they’ve raised just over half that so far. Excess money will go toward an organization that “is focused on gun legislation,” Smith said. The march is co-sponsored by One Million Moms for Gun Control, Trinity United Church of Christ, Foundry United Methodist Church and the Washington National Cathedral.
D.C. Council members and Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) will attend, Smith said, along with the Rev. Dean Snyder, senior pastor of Foundry; Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D); Virginia Tech survivor Colin Goddard; and Shannon Watts from One Million Moms for Gun Control. Thousands of people have pledged on Facebook to participate. Signature Theatre Associate Artistic Director Matthew Gardiner has organized a group of performers from area theaters who’ll be singing “Imagine,” and D.C. theater staple Nova Payton will sing Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.”
The rally will continue with a 3 p.m. performance of “Boged (Traitor): An Enemy of the People” at Georgetown University followed by a “theater action” to support gun control at 5 p.m. staged by NoPassport theater alliance. That event — produced in collaboration with Theater J, interdisciplinary arts ensemble force/collision and Twinbiz — will be at Georgetown University’s Gonda Theatre and features new work by playwrights including Matthew Paul Olmos, Neil LaBute, Jennifer Maisel and Caridad Svich, who is spearheading the project.
“The plays aren’t necessarily about action but [are] about emotional responses to the tragedy in Newtown and other tragedies,” said John Moletress, founder of force/collision. “It’s not just about protestation.”
Smith said the response, especially from the theater community, has been overwhelming. “What I’ve really found is that people have really moved into a moment where they are saying: enough.”
For more information about the March on Washington for Gun Control, go to facebook.com/GunCtrlMarch.