'American Song': Gun Violence From a Father's Perspective
The world premiere of American Song opens tonight at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater. Starring Wisconsin actor James Devita, it is a searing show about how guns touch one man’s life and change it forever.
Written by Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith, the show presents the perspective of a gun violence perpetrator's father - one that often gets overshadowed by the voices of victims and survivors of many mass shootings that have occurred in America.
From Columbine, Colorado to Oak Creek, Wisconsin, mass gun violence is far more common in America compared to Australia, which has much more regulated gun laws and fewer mass shootings in comparison.
At first Murray-Smith was hesitant to write a play about American gun violence when she had little connection to the topic - being Australian and knowing how complex and politicized the issue is in the United States. However, she chose to focus American Song on parenting in today’s fractured society, and how one man's life is impacted by his son's inconceivable act of violence.
"The story of guns on a visceral level is a human story," explains Murray-Smith. "When people lose people through gun violence that gets to the heart of what it is to be human and it doesn't matter whether you're Australian or American."
By keeping the show on a smaller scale with one powerful actor, the character's interaction with guns pulls the audience into an experience that can bypass any political allegiances, she says. "What was pleasurable for me as a writer was the thought of not really paying too much mind to the politics and just telling the story from a very, very personal, very charismatic human being's mouth," says Murray-Smith.
"If you can seduce the audience into liking Andy and to traveling with him, then he will take you to places that you may not intellectually want to go - which is into the world of guns and gun violence, and on some level the politics of guns," she says.