Performance Aimed at Having Frank Discussions
Aiken, SC (02/13/2020) — The University of South Carolina Aiken presents For Bo: A Play Inspired by the Murder of Botham Jean by Police Officer Amber Guyger, on Feb. 20, from 6 - 8 p.m., in the Etherredge Center.
The performance is open to the public. Donations or canned goods will be collected for community outreach efforts, specifically the Aiken NAACP Youth Chapter.
"This staged reading will present the audience with a rendition of the actions which occurred during Botham Jean's murder, allowing them to get a second-hand account of the situation," said Travis Hardee, coordinator of Diversity Initiatives at USC Aiken.
"Although this will not fully insert the audience into the event that occurred, it will give them the opportunity to experience it through the eyes of the script's author."
According to Paul Crook, executive director of the Etherredge Center, For Bo is a play written by Ayvaunn Penn, a former student of his who earned her Master of Fine Arts in playwriting from Columbia University. The play is part of what Penn calls the "For Bo Initiative," which is a series of staged readings during Black History Month at colleges and universities in different parts of the country.
Penn is currently on staff at Texas Christian University, and she intends for the play to explore what she believes is the national epidemic of unarmed African Americans killed by police and how society - particularly the African-American community - grapples with the resulting trauma.
"This play is a part of a national movement designed to build awareness of this issue," said Hardee.
"Talking about these issues brings attention to the larger structural issues surrounding police brutality and our society's long history of racist perceptions for people of color. Giving the members of our community the space to have discussions like this gives everyone the chance to share their thoughts and close gaps in understanding."
The cast of USC Aiken students will conduct a staged reading of the play. Afterward, community leaders, professors, and public safety officials will participate in a panel discussion to share their perspectives and insight on issues surrounding race, police brutality, and other similar topics. Like the other "For Bo Initiative" participants, the USC Aiken post-show discussion will feature an interdisciplinary panel of academics and professionals with knowledge and expertise that can facilitate a healthy cross-cultural exchange of emotions, insights, and potential solutions for psychological, emotional, and social healing.
"The play is an excellent opportunity to engage the campus and larger community with a sensitive issue that affects us all," Crook said.
"Additionally, it is a wonderful example of how the arts can serve as a catalyst for social discussion and growth."
"We expect this conversation to be tough for many, but these are the types of conversations we encourage through our events. The USC Aiken Department of Diversity Initiatives invites anyone interested in furthering their education on modern topics and controversial issues to come out to these events and grow with our students."
Student-volunteers are not only the actors in the performance, but they are also orchestrating the stage effects and preparations behind the scenes.