EXCLUSIVE: The much-anticipated staging of Oklahoma! will be Broadway’s first partner in Hollywood’s Gun Neutral Initiative: For every visible gun that is seen onstage in Oklahoma!, a donation will be made to organizations “committed to helping solve the gun violence crisis by destroying firearms that should be out of circulation.”
Oklahoma!’s participation in the campaign is expected to be announced today by the show’s lead producer Eva Price at a Sundance Film Festival panel titled “See Change: The Call for Gun Neutral Entertainment.”
“We are honored and proud that Oklahoma! will be leading the way on Broadway by partnering with the Gun Neutral Initiative,” Price said in a statement provided to Deadline prior to the panel. “Just because a particular story calls for the presence of a particular weapon, that doesn’t mean that we have to remain complacent in America’s gun-violence epidemic. Helping to destroy firearms that shouldn’t be in circulation is both a privilege and a responsibility.”
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Gun Neutral was launched in October by Level Forward, the entertainment company co-founded by Abigail Disney and Adrienne Becker. Described as a non-partisan effort, Gun Neutral explores ways that entertainment companies and productions can address gun violence while preserving “authenticity and artistic freedom.”
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In addition to providing research, Gun Neutral encourages the practice that gives the organization its name. With gun neutrality, productions pledge to include a budget line item to help cover the cost of destroying a real-world gun and invest in community arts programs for youth in gun-violent communities.
“Gun Neutral is a collective acknowledgement the creative community can and will do more, that we need a shift on this issue, and that the movement must be unshackled from politics to succeed,” Level Forward said today. “As we increase our understanding of the consequences portrayals of gun violence promote on screens and stage, we may rethink them. We know we instigate cultural shifts in our work. Now we will start to account for that.”
A contribution by participating productions is made for every prop gun that appears on screen or stage. At the time of October’s announcement, the cost was an average of $15 per prop gun, with the goal being the destruction of 10 firearms for every one prop gun used in a film. The first three films announced as part of the initiative were director Semi Chellas’ American Woman, Parisa Barani’s short Human Terrain, and, contributing retroactively, Abigail Disney’s 2015 doc Armor of Light.
With today’s announcement, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!, directed by Daniel Fish, will be the first Broadway production to make the gun-neutral pledge. The revival, ecstatically praised in its original sold-out Off Broadway staging at St. Ann’s Warehouse in the fall, begins performances Tuesday, March 19, at Broadway’s Circle in the Square Theatre, with an official opening on Sunday, April 7. The limited engagement runs through Sunday, September 1. The Off Broadway production made many critics’ year-end Best Of lists.
Although an exact dollar figure was not released, Oklahoma! will make a donation for ever visible gun onstage, with the money going to the Gun Neutral 501c3 “for the benefit of organizations working to destroy illegal firearms that should be out of circulation. Gun Neutral will also use the funds to make grants to organizations who provide arts and STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) programming to youth in underserved areas, and particularly those impacted by chronic gun violence.”
In addition to Price, today’s Gun Neutral panel at Sundance was set to include remarks by Abigail Disney and performances by Marjory Stoneman Douglas students Sawyer Garity and Andrea Pena singing “Shine” (the song they wrote for victims of the Parkland, FL, mass shooting), as well as an appearance by MSD student and poet Samantha Fuentes.
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