Episode Five — ‘What Breaks My Heart The Most’
“It’s so unjust that you cannot go to school without fearing for your own life,” said actor Angie Hogue. “You have no idea what people are capable of – people you love and people you trust – you have no idea whether or not they have the capacity to do something outrageous and horrific.”
The 18-year-old former Cry Havoc cast member just began her freshman year of college at the California Institute of the Arts. But she took a break from online classes to share her thoughts about guns and her reflections about the making of Babel with “Gun Play” podcast hosts Hady Mawajdeh and Jerome Weeks.
Their interview occurred a little more than two years after Babel debuted.
“And so, that’s why everybody has to do these drills and everybody has to learn these procedures, because sadly [mass shootings] are something that happen now,” she said via video conference.
In Babel, Angie portrayed Abbie Clements, a former teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School who hid in her classroom with her students when a shooter entered the building and killed 26 people. During the show’s production, Angie said she was horrified by guns. And she questioned a person’s need for a gun. But now, she said, “I definitely feel like I understand more why a person might want to own a firearm … Especially as a young woman in America.”
Angie’s perspective shifted when she turned 18, she said. “I felt so much more exposed for some reason,” she explained. “And if someone attacked me and I had a gun, I would be able to properly defend myself.”
This change of heart, Angie said, was partly caused by hearing the story of Dylan Hockley’s murder at Sandy Hook. The first-grader had special needs and died in the arms of his aide, who tried to shield him from the hail of bullets that would kill them both.
“I think about that day a lot actually. I thought about it the other night,” she said. “For no reason. Nothing came up that reminded me of it. It just came into my mind.”
The actor said more than two years after meeting Dylan’s mother and hearing her relive his death, she still imagines being in the first-grader’s shoes that day and she’s still haunted.
“This sensory overload he must’ve been experiencing, and this fear, and this lack of understanding about what was about to happen to him I think is what breaks my heart the most,” she said. “All of these children, they went to school that day and their parents sent them off to school having no idea that this would be the worst day of their lives.”
Still, Angie takes solace in the fact that she and her fellow actors gave life to their stories with Babel.
“It didn’t stop shootings. It didn’t stop gun violence,” Angie said of the play. “But I think what Babel did — at the very least — amplified the voices in our story. We made the world remember them. And we forced people to think about things that aren’t easy to think about. I think that’s really valuable.”
Mara Richards Bim
Richards Bim is the founder and artistic director of Cry Havoc Theater Company. She has said she created the teen theater troupe to let young people have a voice in big, contentious — and sometimes disturbing — issues and conversations.
“You know, their ideas are exciting and I love creating theater with them. I love seeing how far I can push them. You know, a lot of theater programs with young people, they do “Disney” or they, y’know, tell really sweet, sentimental stories. And there is absolutely a place for that. But there’s also a place for pushing them to do more challenging work and take on really difficult topics that sometimes adults don’t even want to take on.”
With Babel, Cry Havoc took on the topic of gun rights and gun violence. And Richards Bim said it was the company’s intention to cover as many sides of the highly divisive issue as they could. But during the interview process, she said, she quickly realized that speaking with NRA members and gun enthusiasts wasn’t nearly as gut-wrenching as speaking with the survivors of gun violence.
“I really had no idea how impactful those interviews were going to be. You know, when we traveled to different parts of the country and talked with parents who had lost children to gun violence, it really had a lasting impact.”
Richards Bim said she wasn’t prepared for the heartbreak that she and the actors were going to hear.
“Hindsight being 20/20 – I think we would have prepared differently.”
Cry Havoc has gone on to craft documentary theater performances about sexual orientation, the environment, and the migration issues at the U.S.-Mexico border. The group even traveled to refugee camps to meet with teens stuck in the middle of the immigration battle between both countries. But since Babel, Richards Bim says her approach to mental well-being has shifted.
“In preparation I have actually brought in a therapist to work with us beforehand, knowing that we were going to hear stories that would potentially be traumatic. And when we returned, we actually had a therapist come in and talk to [the cast and crew] as a group.”
- Cry Havoc Theater’s Crossing the Line Turns the Voices of Immigration Into a Play.
- Theater with No Borders
- Teen Actors Take On Sex Education and Immigration Based On Their Experiences In School and At The Border
- On The Border
- Cry Havoc Theater Goes Retro… And Futuristic With An Audio Play
- Q&A: Mara Richards Bim