Temple Theaters’ SHOT! tells the story of violence in North Philly through the eyes of witnesses.
A new Temple Theaters production uses firsthand accounts from witnesses of violence to tell North Philadelphia’s story.
Every monologue and character featured in SHOT!, written by Professor Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon and directed by Professor Douglas C. Wager, is based on a real person.
Some students who live in the communities surrounding Main Campus said they found the show to be strikingly realistic.
“We live on Carlisle [Street], and so much drama goes on,” said Serena Robinson, a sophomore social work major who saw the play. “It’s typical Philly, like [it’s] portrayed in movies with fights, glass bottles and cousins and family coming out to see what’s going on. One of the first nights at Temple as a freshman, I lived at White Hall, and there was a shooting at Crown Chicken across the street.”
Sophomore criminal justice major Jennifer Rutt agreed.
“I was already afraid but even more now. This is real,” she said, adding that she recalled a shooting near campus her first week at Temple. “It’s all real.”
Though SHOT! found a captive audience in students, Temple Theaters Director of Public Relations and Marketing Scott Braun said due to a lack of advertising dollars, it was difficult to draw community members in to see the show.
Andre, a North Philadelphia resident for more than 50 years, who declined to give his last name in an interview with The Temple News, was not interested in seeing SHOT! due to the negative connotation he said it gives his hometown.
“Shootings happen everywhere, not just in North Philly,” he said, adding that he would rather see a play portraying the positive side of the community. “Twenty years ago, [Temple students would] have been afraid to come west of Broad Street, but now [they’re] living next door to me, and that’s a positive thing.”
Deborah Hampton, another Philadelphia native and North Philadelphia resident, said she didn’t see the show either, but did not feel the representation of the community was inaccurate.
“I’ve never witnessed any personal shootings in my immediate family or anything like that,” she said. “But I’ve definitely heard stories about them pretty close to where I live.”
Senior theater major Danielle Pinnock, an actor in SHOT!, said she was able to portray the core of the community somewhat honestly but felt she didn’t quite hit the nail on the head.
“It was a great learning experience to play real people and to tell their story,” she said. “[I portrayed them accurately] to some extent … but more work needs to be done.”
Rabbi Michael Holzman and Scott Charles, community members who served as eye-witnesses for the play, both attended performances.
“It was very powerful for me to see myself on the stage and how I was portrayed. The script was amazing, and the challenge was enormous,” Holzman said.
“It certainly captured some of the people who live in North Philly with fair representation,” Charles, a trauma outreach coordinator who was also interviewed for SHOT!, said. “The portrayal, for me, was incredibly encouraging and depicted the complexity of life. It provided a level of nuance you’d never get, and I thought that was phenomenal.”
Jenn Stanley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.