A single act of violence can claim how many victims? EMPATHeatre’s “One in the Chamber” endeavors to provide an answer.
The troupe of actors delivered a performance of the play on Saturday at Flashpoint Theatre in Washington, D.C. Per usual, the show preceded a reactionary panel of local leaders in the movement against violence. This Saturday, Jerry Park showcased the efforts of Little Friends for Peace.
Although Park has worked in the peace movement for more than 35 years and has vast experience addressing violence, he said he was greatly moved by the performance.
The drama tells the story of a house still reeling — five years later — from a tragedy that brought the family from a happy unit of six to a miserable cluster of five. The single-scene play highlights the discussions between a social worker and the surviving siblings and parents of a ten-year-old boy accidentally shot by his eleven-year-old brother.
The play emphasizes that the deceased child was not the only victim of gun violence in the scenario. The entire family had fragmented and dissolved into islands of grief, whose outlets for pain only perpetuated the violence that sparked it.
The mother, an alcoholic whose mental health had deteriorated since the incident, was prone to shout abuse at her older children and, in her agony, to neglect her youngest child.
The father likewise coped with alcohol, and while he attempted to empathize with and mitigate the pain of his wife and children, he, too, struggled to provide the needed psychological and emotional support for his family.
Meanwhile, the older daughter disrespected her parents and turned to a life of promiscuity to veil her angst, as the younger daughter begged for affection from her self-centered kin.
The final victim was likely the most thought provoking: The surviving brother, the perpetrator of the accidental death, suffered as a pariah both in school and at home. He was lonely. He was depressed. He was self-loathing.
It was his role in the story that called for conversation during the reactionary panel, which included the Rev. Ivy Hylton, a former social worker and the mother of an incarcerated son. Hylton introduced her efforts to advance the U.S. movement of restorative justice through a documentary and the development of resources for families of alleged perpetrators suffering unjust prison sentences.
Following Hylton’s discussion of reactive measures to restore peace after violence, Park offered a proactive approach to curb violence altogether and, in the future, render restorative justice nearly unnecessary. The peace education of Little Friends for Peace is meant to guide community members to an inner peace, which then extends to relationships for interpersonal peace, which ultimately lays the foundation for global peace. LFFP’s instruction on nonviolence aims to mitigate the destructive forces that EMPATHeatre highlights in “One in the Chamber.”
While the content of the performance was inspiring, equally so were the innovative methods of EMPATHeatre to communicate social issues and incite critical discussions through the arts. It should get everyone thinking: What skills do I have, and how can I contribute them to make a more peaceful world?
If you would like to offer your skills — artistic or otherwise — to further our peace education programs, we have a place for you. Please email our volunteer coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org to pitch your involvement to the organization or request information about presently identified needs.