Quills & Queues: 28 hours in a single minute

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival and theater artists across the country will use the immediacy and power of theater to stir up audiences, start conversations and call attention to injustices with the “Every 28 Hours” project. OSF and the One-Minute Play Festival, based in New York City, have teamed to co-produce a theater project that will include more than 60 one-minute plays focusing on the widely shared statistic that a black person is killed by the police, security guards or vigilantes every 28 hours in the United States. (This paragraph has been changed to reflect that the statistics compiled by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement  for 2012 included deaths at the hands of security guards and vigilantes, not just police.)

The plays and the collaboration were inspired by the 2014 shooting of unarmed, 18-year old Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., and the Black Lives Matter movement that grew from it and similar killings.

The initial performances will be in St. Louis County, Mo., this Oct. 20-24. “The first time the plays will be heard is in Ferguson, which feels right,” said OSF Associate Producer Claudia Alick, who is spearheading OSF’s part in the project.

Participating theaters and institutions will also offer community meetings, collaborative writing sessions and play readings. “We’re doing a lot of community engagement. This project is about reflecting this exact moment in history through as many different lenses as we can,” she added.

The second phase of the project won’t take place until October 2016, and will involve the partnering theaters, including OSF, offering plays in their own communities. “Some theaters are jumping right in and doing shows the weekend they return from Ferguson and St. Louis, but we want to wait a year to give us time to process what comes out in Missouri,” said Alick.

The “Every 28 Hours” project grew from last year’s “Ferguson Moment Project,” in which Alick and a number of theater artists around the country went to Ferguson and organized an artistic response to the events happening there. “What struck me was that the images we were seeing in the news around protests in Ferguson were literal reflections of what was happening in ‘The Great Society,’ our American Revolutions play at that time,” said Alick. The “American Revolutions” series is about our past, and this collaboration is about what is happening now, about history being made in this current Civil Rights Movement.”

Alick says she was particularly moved by the response she received from other theater artists. “One of the things I’ve found most thrilling about the project was that people immediately said yes. Regardless of whether they had the resources or the time, they felt it was important enough to make it work and participate.”

The One-Minute Play Festival is a large and long-running grassroots theater company. Under artistic director Dominic D’Andrea, the short plays are created to reflect communities and allow space for audiences to engage with social topics. So far, Alick says, this particular festival is the largest. “We have 45 playwrights participating all over the country, including Pulitzer Prize Winners, a Tony award winner and many strong, emerging playwrights,” she said.

Many of the artists have come through OSF or worked with OSF in some capacity. Participating writers include former OSF playwright-in-residence Luis Alfaro, Lynn Nottage, who wrote this season’s “American Revolutions” play, “Sweat,” and Robert Schenkkan who wrote “All The Way” and “The Great Society.”

One uniting factor among the diverse array of participating artists, says Alick, is a sense of responsibility. “Everyone involved is feeling the responsibility to do this right, to really reflect what is happening in the United States, and to reflect with care because it is happening with human beings who are living through these events right now.”

For more information about “Every 28 Hours,” visit www.thefergusonmoment.com.

For information about the One Minute Play Festival, visit www.oneminuteplayfestival.com.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Angela Decker at decker4@gmail.com.

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