By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
It has been two decades since the Alfred P. Murrah building was bombed and 168 lives were lost. Oklahoma City University will present “The Oklahoma City Bombing Project.”
As an emerging form of theatre art, TheatreOCU company has created a new theatrical production that explores the April 1995 event. The play is based on interviews and historical records from the people who experienced it.
The production will be an emotional, living memorial and a celebration of the recovery, rebuilding and healing process of Oklahoma City.
The event is free to the public, Thursday through Sunday, April 16 to 19 at the OCU Burg Theatre, in the Kirkpatrick Fine Arts Center at N.W. 24th St. and Blackwelder Avenue.
Performances will be held Thursday through Saturday (April 16 to 18) at 8 p.m., and then 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 19.
The 11 member cast performances will be based on interviews with more than 45 family members of victims, survivors, local officials and first responders.
OCU commissioned award-winning playwright Steve Gilroy, for the play. He is the author of several works including “Motherland,” which toured the UK in 2009.
Gilroy is the director of performing arts at Northumbria University in Newcastle, England. He specializes in the verbatim theatre genre. It is a documentary created for the stage usually based on personal interviews and transcripts.
The personal interviews forming the 2-hour play were conducted by OCU students, faculty, Gilroy and OCU Associate Dean of Theatre Brian Parsons.
“We have a unique opportunity and responsibility to respond through art,” Parsons said. “This work is a living memorial” intended to honor “the tenacity, recovery and healing process of Oklahoma City.”
A portion of the proceeds from the play’s publication following the event will be donated to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum.
“For this project, there is this incredible honesty that comes from people,” Gilroy said. “I haven’t seen that before in any other project I’ve done. I think that is something about the people of Oklahoma City.
“They find themselves 20 years later where they are no longer defined by what’s happened and they are able to open new chapters in their lives,” Gilroy said.
Courtney DiBello, instructor of stage management and faculty adviser at OCU, will direct the production. She noted that the student actors and crew were either not born yet or were babies at the time of the bombing.
“For these students who are participating in the production, and to a large extent the students who will be seeing the production, this is an education as well as a theatrical experience,” DiBello said.
Parson’s hopes that every high school in Oklahoma will have access to the play in the future. His plan is to create an education package that includes scripts, a documentary produced by OCU about the making of the play, a teacher’s packet, and all the materials students will need to research, rehearse and create their own productions.
“The overwhelming message that comes from everybody interviewed is how the regeneration of the city has occurred,” Gilroy said. “But I think in the end, it is going to be about these very powerful individual stories woven together to create a much bigger human story about recovery.”
Cast member Amy Fuhrmanm, BFA Acting Senior said, “This show is not for us and it’s not for OCU, is is so we can honor what happened. There is no other way to described what being part of this is like except honored.”
Emily Hawkins, BFA Acting Senior, said, “We want to make the play a story of strength of how the city came together. The story is tragic, that’s just inevitable, but everyone has been shedding such a positive light on the strength of the city and that’s something really cool to see.”
Cody Wimmer, BFA Acting Major Senior said, “It’s certainly about what happened, but it’s also about what’s happened since then,” Wimmer said. “It takes something that was absolutely horrible and comes out the other side better for it. That’s a story worth telling.”
The “20th Anniversary Oklahoma City Bombing Project” is recommended for ages 13 and up. Tickets are limited to four per reservation and can be reserved by calling 405-208-5227 or visit okcu.edu/ticketoffice.