No space for blanks

Team decides to no longer use a stage firearm in Stupid F@#king Bird


Photo Courtesy of TU Theatre

Junior Emily Brodie makes costumes for the performance of “Stupid F*cking Bird” that was intended to utilize a fake gun firing blanks. The gun was confiscated by TU officials.

On Wednesday, March 22, a new poster appeared on the tables in the lobby outside the Jane and Arthur Stieren Theater. The posters announced that there would be blank firearms testing for the theater department’s production of “Stupid F@#king bird” that day at 3:30 p.m. —three hours before testing was previously scheduled to happen.

As soon as the posters appeared in the Stieren lobby, theatre students informed as many people as possible about the testing. Lucius Brown, a sophomore psychology major and Trinity University Players (TUPS) member, emphasized the seemingly abrupt nature of the announcement and the importance of spreading awareness.

“We texted our own group chats to get the information out there,” Brown said. “It was a distressing thought that people could be in the courtyard outside or walking in the lobby of the building and that they could hear something really scary and not know the context.”

The firearm in question is a replica of a gun designed for stage use, and cannot fire bullets of any kind. (Because the gun emits hot gas when triggered, it is referred to as a firearm in the context of this article.) The sound effect is very similar to a regular firearm, which was one of the motivations behind its potential use in the production initially.

Stacy Connelly, an associate professor of theater and the director of “Stupid F@#king Bird,” cited the motivations behind using a firearm due to the emotional weight the use of the gun onstage carries in the play. “It’s a very serious moment, and it’s scary. … We were looking for something that was true to the text and was dramatically effective,” Connelly said.

Due to the hesitancy behind using a gun onstage, there was a demonstration of the firearm on Wednesday, March 29, for students in the cast and crew of the production to hear the sound effect and decide if the firearm should be used in the production. Following the demonstration, the cast and crew decided that the firearm would not be used in play.

Connelly emphasized that the gunshot sounds from the prop firearms at Trinity were too loud and that a sound effect of that magnitude would distract the audience from the original message of the production. “What we discovered is that the sound effect was too loud for that space … We all agreed that the impact of a sound that loud would take people out of the play,” Connelly said.

Maximus Montoya, a sophomore business and communication double-major who plays Trig in “Stupid F@#cking Bird,” expressed that the cast is very involved in the production. “We had a lot of discussions voicing our concerns and the potential risks of using a gun. … It’s completely fine not using a gun. It’s a minor detail, we can always work around that,” Montoya said.

The concerns brought forth about firearms in “Stupid F@#cking Bird” has also opened up the role firearms may have in future mainstage productions at Trinity. Montoya expressed that conversations need to be had for future plays that deal with violence.

“The plays we’re doing next year have a lot to do with the current climate regarding guns and violence,” Montoya said, “This is a good precursor to that play because we’re able to have an open dialogue, kind of figure out what we can do with prop guns and seeing if they could be used for the future to give impact to a story.”

According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 130 mass shootings this year so far, and 647 mass shootings last year. With the recent school shooting on Monday, March 27 in Nashville, Tennessee, and the school shooting at Michigan State University in February of this year, gun violence remains a subject that is constantly on people’s minds. Connelly echoed the concerns people have regarding the use of a firearm in a play.

“There is justifiable concern and anxiety that has arisen based on the idea behind having a gun onstage. But I think it’s important to keep it in balance so that it doesn’t skew the meaning of the play, because the play itself is not about violence,” Connelly said.