The Playwright’s Perspective

Lauron Thompson, Artist in Residence at Saint Louis Story Stitchers Photo: Eboni Sampa

Lauron Thompson joined the Saint Louis Story Stitchers Artists Collective as an Artist in Residence in 2016. Lauron is the playwright and director of the Collective’s original play, Not Another One! She reflects on her experience thus far…

As an artist it has always been important to me use my art as a way to communicate a message to the people [community]. More often it has been writing that has given me the loudest voice but even as a model I have found that a picture is worth a thousand words. Recently, after being bombarded with so many social issues it has been difficult to isolate single ideas and speak on them. I too, had become numb and “so over” the headlines. I wanted to speak out. I wanted my inner activist to activate but I struggled to find the motivation to pen yet another poem or letter to my community urging them to love one another.

Things took a turn in the summer 2016. I received an email from a local activist who needed to turn her community conversation based on gun violence and its effect on youth ages 15-24 into a stage play. Saint Louis Story Stitchers leaders were determined to make a difference in their community by working with youth. The organization conducted a discussion that included youth, parents and city officials from politicians to a lieutenants on the police force. This conversation was so informative the Collective believed it was necessary to get this information out to the community by way of repeatable art. It has since been turned into a book and from there the concept of “Not Another One” the stage play was born. I had never been commissioned to adapt a conversation into a play but I graciously accepted. While meditating, I had visualized a few months prior that very soon I’d be flourishing as a playwright. I had prayed and believed that I would receive inspiration to write another production. Upon receiving this email I knew that I had manifested this opportunity and was reminded how God works in mysterious ways. This project challenged me to reinvent my creative process. I was very glad to meet the woman behind the emails. Susan, had warm eyes, a passionate voice, and she was filled with enthusiasm concerning our collaboration. Our first meeting was a sit in with four of her summer interns and Lieutenant Perri Johnson, Juvenile Commander from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. With that conversation and a transcribed copy of the 2015 discussion I was set free to make theatrical magic of real life issues.

Not Another One! has touched me so deeply. The content reflects the frustration of my community. The conversation is filled with questions of how to behave when coming in contact with law enforcement, how to feel respected in our own neighborhoods and even queries on accountability. Bottom line- whose fault is it that there seems to be only tension between teens and the police. Tension that too often results in shots fired and loss of life. Writing a play on such a hot topic came with its complications. I needed to come from a non-biased point of view – even still it was difficult to tell the people what they needed to hear without being cliché. I not only desired to keep it real but I was required to write with an authentic voice because young people can smell fake the way a dog can smell a bone. If I wanted this show to be received it was up to me to write courageously; even if it meant checking “my people” on behaviors that may rob youth of color of the knowledge needed to survive in a world where we are still being judged by the color of our skin.

I completed the play this past October and will be directing this original work in February 2017. Auditions for the lead roles are December 9th and 17th, 2016 and I am looking for dynamic youth with theater /performance experience.  This collaboration with Susan and the Saint Louis Story Stitchers will debut February 25th, 2017 at the Kranzberg Arts Foundation’s .ZACK Theater located in the Grand Arts Center District.

For more information on Not Another One! A Play 4 Peace follow the link to register for auditions! HERE

Not Another One! A Play 4 Peace is sponsored by Kranzberg Arts Foundation, Regional Arts Commission, Steward Family Foundation, Freedman Family Fund, Yvette and John Dubinsky Family Foundation, Susan Block and The Designing Block, and Susie and Gordon Philpott.