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Play about gun violence aims to heal, inspire activism

From left, Carol Swartout Klein and Joan Lipkin hold a poster for the play "26 Pebbles."
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio
From left, Carol Swartout Klein and Joan Lipkin hold a poster for the play "26 Pebbles."

Drawing inspiration from a dark place, playwright Eric Ulloa created a theater production that highlights the issue of gun violence in the United States.

After 20 first graders and six school teachers were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, Ulloa visited the recovering community of Newtown, Connecticut and collected more than 60 interviews, ultimately weaving them into a play titled “26 Pebbles.”

“I think we need to talk about the trauma that we have in our lives so that we don’t feel isolated, and so that we can have collective healing and collective support,” Joan Lipkin, who is the artistic director of That Uppity Theatre Company, said on Monday’s St. Louis on the Air.

The play by That Uppity Theatre Company and the University of Central Oklahoma in partnership with the Missouri Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and “Painting for Peace in Ferguson,” debuts across the region this week.

“My hope is that a play like this can help us to [not only] find some sort of healing, but also to take action,” Lipkin said.

Also joining host Don Marsh was Carol Swartout Klein, author of  the award-winning chidren's book “Painting for Peace in Ferguson.” She has plans to visit Newtown next week to tell residents there how art played a role following the unrest in Ferguson.

“Really both stories are about what’s next and how do we as individuals become empowered to take action to make our communities safer for all the residents,” Klein said referring to the incidents in Newtown and Ferguson.

Klein’s book was selected by the Vicki Soto Memorial Fund to be distributed to classrooms and teachers in Stratford School District – a district in the hometown of one of the first grade teachers killed at Sandy Hook Elementary. Twelve murals featured in the book will be displayed in Stratford, Connecticut.

While discussions of gun violence often incite political perspectives, the guests recognized that is not a reason to shy away from the subject.

“Any kind of real change has to happen on several levels. It has to happen in terms of cultural representation – that’s where the arts come in, and it also is important in terms of education, as well as legislation,” Lipkin said.

Related Event
What: Eric Ulloa’s “26 Pebbles” 
When: June 19-23, 2018
Where: Various locations
More information

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex HeuerEvie HemphillLara Hamdan and Caitlin Lally give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Caitlin Lally is thrilled to join St. Louis Public Radio as the summer production intern for "St. Louis on the Air." With a bachelor's degree in journalism from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Caitlin also freelances for area publications like Sauce Magazine and the Belleville News-Democrat. In her career, she's covered topics such as Trump's travel ban, political protests and community activism. When she's not producing audio segments or transcribing interviews, Caitlin enjoys practicing yoga, seeing live music, and cooking plant-based meals.