by Thomas Thorspecken
On February 10th I went to the final dress rehearsal for the original docudrama, written and directed by John DiDonna, called "DIVISION The Trayvon/Jordan Project". For those unfamiliar with the incidents that hit so close to home, Trayvon Martin was a young black man walking home from a store who was shot to death on the evening of February 26, 2012 by a neighborhood watch coordinator named George Zimmerman. The shooting of Jordan Davis occurred on November 23, 2012, at a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida. He was a 17-year-old African American high school student, who was fatally shot by Michael David Dunn, a 45-year-old software developer from Brevard County. The incident began when Dunn asked Davis and his companions to turn down the loud music. George Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder and of manslaughter charges. The Michael Dunn jury was unable to return a unanimous verdict on a charge of first-degree murder, the judge declared a mistrial on that count. Dunn was convicted, however, on three counts of attempted second-degree murder for firing at three other teenagers who were with Davis and one count of firing into a vehicle. Dunn's retrial for first-degree murder began the week of September 22, 2014. Dunn was found guilty October 1, 2014, and was sentenced to a mandatory sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole on October 17, 2014.
To create this project, students conducted over 150 hours of interviews with people involved in the cases. What results is an open raw dialogue about Division and racism in America. I identified deeply with a female reporter played by Danielle Marie Irigoyen who covered the story. She confided that she cried when she listened to 911 calls made the night Trayvon was shot. I remember having the same gut wrenching reaction when I listened to them to help write about events as they unfolded. As a journalist you are supposed to be dispassionate when you report the news. This story was different. She had a sound technician analyze the audio and he concluded that Trayvon Martin could be heard pleading for his life moments before the gunshot silenced the night. This evidence wasn't allowed in court because not everyone is convinced that the new technology is 100% accurate.
"That's Just the Way It Is" by Bruce Hornsby was playing on the sound system as the audience arrived, followed by "Imagine" by John Lennon. The large cast began their discussion about division, with everyone shouting while no one listened. projected on the screen was "We are..." anyone in Sanford or Central Florida knows the response is "Trayvon". In a riveting moment, the entire cast turned to the screen to read the "Stand Your Ground" statute. It was Machiavellian with every word seeming more insane. It is a license to kill. Much of the production felt like an intimate, heated class discussion. Barry Kirsch a talented local photographer was the official photographer of the Trayvon Martin case. It was fascinating to see his opinions molded around a character played by Dean Walkuski in the play. Some actors were built around the opinions of many different people while others stood expressed one person's opinion. The show isn't about reliving the horrors of each case, but instead focuses on how those events influenced communities both near and far.
The play opens a much needed discussion. After each performance there will be a talk back with the audience so the discussion can continue. Staying silent and hoping that these violent acts will stop isn't a solution. Change only comes from the concerted efforts of a few. When Sanford was torn by the Trayon Martin shooting many people felt the incident would pass quietly away. However, one local woman played by Avis-Marie Barnes worked the phones and ultimately over 50,000 people converged on Sanford to demonstrate. Even if one person listens, and you change their mind, then you've changed the world. What are you going to do to help change the world? Don't miss this production. Join the discussion.
“Division: The Trayvon/Jordan Project”
A World Premiere Docudrama
The Valencia College Theater
Written and Directed by John DiDonna
Written in collaboration with Valencia students
William Adkins, Aidan Bohan-Moulton, Carolyn Ducker, Phillip Edwards, Nathan Jones, Anneliese Moon, Elina Moon, Dennis Ramos, Stelson Telfort, Michael Sabbagh.
Only 6 Performances
Feb 11, 12, 13, 14 and 16 at 7:30 p.m.
Feb 15 at 2 p.m.
Building 3, Black Box Theater
Valencia College East Campus, Performing Arts Center
701 N. Econlockhatchee Trail, Orlando, FL.
$12 general admission
$10 for Valencia students, faculty, staff and senior citizens
Box Office: 407-582-2900
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