Open Forum

Declaration by Jonathan Dorf

  • 1.  Declaration by Jonathan Dorf

    Posted 09-03-2019 05:18
    I teach in a middle school in San Leandro, CA.  I would like to include the play Declaration by Jonathan Dorf in my season.  I believe strongly in the message and the content and I think it is appropriate for my school and community.  My admin supports the choice but they are concerned that others will not.  We are currently brainstorming the right way in which to present the play/concept to district level admin as well as the community.

    If any of you have had any experience with this production I would appreciate some feedback.  How was it received?  How best to approach a hesitant administration?  How to get the community on my side?  Anything at all would help.

    The play deals with an active shooter in a school setting.  If you haven't dealt specifically with this play but can relate based on the topic your help would also be appreciated.

    Thank you in advance.

    Mohammed Mangrio
    San Leandro CA

  • 2.  RE: Declaration by Jonathan Dorf

    Posted 09-03-2019 11:00

    I applaud you and your creative team for such an undertaking. We performed The Laramie Project and had a similar scenario with acceptance and the subject matter. I love the musical "Assassins" but our administration will not allow us, nor will the community support a show like this with all that is happening in the world. The argument is that audiences come to the theatre to be entertained and escape the noise and harshness of the work we live in. I would love to see other comments and wish you success.

    Crit Fisher
    Lighting/Sound Designer
    New Albany High School

  • 3.  RE: Declaration by Jonathan Dorf

    Posted 09-04-2019 08:26
    My first year at a school we did A Season of Choices, and our One Acts were Bang, Bang You're Dead and Lockdown.  Both about school shooters.  The way we approached it was to teach the lesson that we all make choices and those choices have consequences.  BBYD is more of the shooter's choice and what caused him to make the ones he did, and Lockdown is more about the choices we make in that situation.  I had full support by my admin, I asked the PD to come in and talk with our cast and crew about these situations and how it has changed for them as police since Columbine.  We even had our shooter in BBYD wear a prison uniform from our city's prison which made it very real.  The show was set in a thrust configuration with the actor's right there with the audience.  These two shows had such an impact we had to add seating as we sold out.  The community and school learned so much and took away such great messages vs the "shock" factor.  These were done with good intent and in return had such a good payback for us.

    Kimberly Wibbenmeyer

  • 4.  RE: Declaration by Jonathan Dorf

    Posted 09-04-2019 09:11


    Since you know that this is a topic that the community is concerned about, might you bring the show to them as a way to publicly discuss that concern?  It should be possible to stage the show with a talk-back after that includes a member of the local law enforcement community, a school counselor or child psychologist, and/or other members of the community who can speak professionally about the issue.  This could be a significant opportunity to engage the public in a positive manner through theatre.

    Suzanne Katz
    Washington DC

  • 5.  RE: Declaration by Jonathan Dorf

    Posted 09-04-2019 12:16

    Hi Mohammed,

    Thanks very much for your interest in Declaration. Jason Robert LeClair, who staged the premiere, would be a great person to talk about this and hopefully he can chime in when he gets a moment, but from having been in-residence at the time, I know that we had post-show discussions both nights that included representatives from both police and fire (as well as Jay and I). I'm fairly sure other groups have had counselors participate as well.

    I'd be happy to talk to you more about the play by email, but two important things I'd stress, because some people may otherwise jump to the wrong assumptions about a "school shooting" play:
    1) It's a play in which we NEVER see the shooter (or even, for the most part, the immediate victims).
    2) It's not a play about the "politics" of gun control, at least not in any overt way. While I don't think it's rocket science to figure out the side on which I come down, I made a deliberate choice to focus on the human elements.

    I would also add that while the original group of productions early this year as part of the Declaration Initiative (which raised over $5k for March for Our Lives) were all at high schools, I saw recently that the first middle school production was licensed by a school in Texas.


    Jonathan Dorf
    Playwright/ Co-founder of YouthPLAYS/ Co-chair of The Alliance Of Los Angeles Playwrights
    Los Angeles CA

  • 6.  RE: Declaration by Jonathan Dorf

    Posted 09-11-2019 18:00
    Thank you Jonathan.  It was decided that we go another direction this season, but I hope to make a stronger case for Declaration in the future.  I may contact you then for some additional advice.

    Thanks again,

    Mohammed Mangrio
    San Leandro CA

  • 7.  RE: Declaration by Jonathan Dorf

    Posted 09-12-2019 19:43
    It takes time to develop a rapport with administrators so they have confidence in your choices as being appropriate for your school district. Administrators are always looking over their shoulders for negative reactions from superintendents, members of the BOE, or community members. Having reached that point in my career I've been able to direct such shows as The Laramie Project, And Then They Came for Me : Remembering the World of Anne Frank. And last year we did the show 26 Pebbles which is about the Sandy Hook shooting. 26 Pebbles did not depict the violence but doed show the resiliency of the community to begin the journey back from that tragedy. Hang tough, strive towards perfection in your performances, and there will be an opportunity in your future to perform the plays that will teach both performers and audience the truth values of theatre.

    David Kramer
    Mt Sinai NY

  • 8.  RE: Declaration by Jonathan Dorf

    Posted 09-05-2019 13:36

    My school did the World Premiere of the piece and I would love to answer any questions you have about the production. We had a moving and wonderful show that over eight performances brought our community into conversation about this very important issue. I think the first thing I can tell you is that a talkback after the show is a good idea. We had first responders there to answer questions about the issue that we could not. Please message me here if you would like to chat.

    Yours in Art,


    Jason Robert LeClair, MA
    Artist/Arts Educator
    Director, Thespian Troupe 7444
    Membership Chairperson of the Educational Theatre Association Rhode Island Chapter
    Beacon Charter High School for the Arts
    Woonsocket, RI

  • 9.  RE: Declaration by Jonathan Dorf

    Posted 09-11-2019 17:56
    Thank you all for your responses.  Unfortunately we will not be producing Declaration this year.  I was told no without too much explanation.  I plan on taking your advice and feedback and building a stronger case for a future production.  Not giving up! 

    Mohammed Ali Mangrio
    John Muir Middle School
    History & Theatre  

    Confidentiality Notice: This e-mail message, including any attachments, is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain confidential and privileged information. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited. If you are not the addressee indicated in this message (or responsible for delivery of the message to such person), please contact the sender by reply e-mail and destroy all copies of the communication and any attachments.