Ann Woldt to perform play opposing gun violence


Photo by Jonathan Facio

by Kayla Reusche, Staff Reporter

Nineteen years ago, 13 people went to school not knowing it would be their last time walking through the halls. Nineteen years ago, the country wept after one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.

April 20, 2018 is the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre. That’s why people across the country are taking a stand against gun violence on that day.

Not only is it the anniversary of the shooting and the day of the National School Walkout, but it’s also a day of theatre activism against gun violence.

On Friday, Ann Woldt, assistant professor of theatre at Simpson College, is joining the more than 50 productions across the country to perform “Natural Shocks,” a one-woman play about gun violence and domestic violence.

Woldt said the audience will meet a 40-year-old funny, intelligent and well-spoken lover of math who has many regrets.

The play starts with a woman waiting out a tornado in her basement. Throughout the performance, the audience will get to know the woman, empathize with her and understand the play’s metaphorical ties to gun violence and domestic violence.

Woldt said the play is often described as, “a comedy, until it’s not.”

Lauren Gunderson, named America’s Most Produced Playwright in 2018 and the mastermind behind “Natural Shocks,” was only 17 years old when she became an activist.

As a junior in high school, the Columbine shooting struck a chord with her. Gunderson organized a student protest, went to Washington to talk to her senators and was called ignorant and naive by her local radio shows.

However, nineteen years later, Gunderson felt little has changed. The recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida left her unsettled.

So, she joined the movement with the Parkland students and continues her mission to end gun violence.

That’s why Gunderson is waiving the play’s royalties for one day and allowing anyone to perform her new, unpublished play on April 20.

Woldt’s performance is one of two that will take place in Iowa.

She said this performance is a whole different beast to tackle because it’s a staged reading, which can sometimes be more challenging than other plays.

There won’t be any costumes, sets or theatrics; just Woldt, her music stand and her script for 65 minutes.

But she won’t just be reading a script — she’ll be telling a story.

“It is so incredibly well-written,” Woldt said when describing why she wanted to perform the play. “Every once in a while, I read something where I can envision it coming out my mouth, where I think ‘These words are right. These words are something I would say and can hear myself saying.’”

She said gun violence isn’t the sole focus of the play, as domestic violence is also a strong theme.

Domestic violence is involved in 54 percent of mass shootings, according to Woldt. She said if you look at a mass shooter’s past, they often have a history of domestic violence.

“I think the whole idea of domestic violence and gun violence together, and how much that escalates everything, is something that people don’t often think about,” Woldt said.

The emotional aspect of the play makes this performance more meaningful than usual to Woldt.

“It’s a discussion that has to be had, and people have to understand this isn’t about taking people’s rights away, but what this is about is having a conversation, finally, about guns,” she said. “It’s time that there are more specific conversations, but then action that is taken about it.”

Attendance is free, with the option to donate to Warren County Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

“We won’t be charging because everyone should be able to see this,” Woldt said.

This was Gunderson’s intent. In exchange for waiving royalties, she asked that the events raise money, either through reasonably-priced tickets or free will donations, for organizations such as Everyone For Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action.

Woldt said the Warren County Coalition Against Domestic Violence was an obvious choice when deciding to whom to donate.

Woldt’s performance will take place Friday at 7 p.m. in Lekberg Hall.