First Strike Theatre Company promotes nonviolence with satire and shtick 

  • Courtesy First Strike Theatre
There’s a lot of tension in the world of activism about whether nonviolence still works, whether “pacifist” equals “passive,” or whether new tactics are needed in this new world order. But certain local organizations are adamant about their techniques, and about the need to shape the future with nonviolent tools.

RAWtools, a nonprofit that takes donated guns and turns them into garden tools and jewelry; First Strike Theatre Company, a theater group with a focus on social justice; and a few other activists and artists are teaming up for a pre-spring sale of RAWtools’ latest collection. After another devastating loss of life — the Feb. 14 shooting at Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that took the lives of 17 people — the intention behind RAWtools, and indeed nonviolence as a whole, feels that much more prescient.

RAWtools artist-in-residence and director of First Strike Theatre Company, Mary Sprunger-Froese, says that Sunday’s sale will be much more than a shopping event or a nonprofit fundraiser — it’s a celebration of nonviolence. “We’re saying there’s so many better ways to create the future and to create the present than guns, than violence. ... We’re celebrating [the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High] and we’re celebrating the power of the people.”

The event will include poetry readings by Nico Wilkinson and Mallory Everhart (both occasional Indy contributors), music by Heidi Cooper and Rosemary Lytle, and of course a performance by First Strike Theatre.
First Strike, which began in 1990, is in its “2.0” phase, and has been performing more frequently as current events necessitate. Composed of regular and rotating cast members from across the Springs’ theater community, First Strike’s satire, song and shtick provide social commentary about important political and societal issues, while couching criticism in humor.

Sprunger-Froese says: “We like to draw attention to issues, not personalities so much. Because we feel like basically what we’re working with is systemic things, and that we need to create a culture that promotes life, that promotes justice, that promotes inclusivity.”

First Strike hopes to empower people to raise their voices and take a stand, as they believe the voice of the public can be stronger than any weapon. And while it may be difficult to perform satire when the world already feels like a farce of itself, they still use the tools at their disposal to draw attention to injustice.

“As long as people keep interrupting and erupting with their humanness and their passion and their concern for truth and for making things better, I think we’ll be okay,” Sprunger-Froese says. “... People need to quit thinking that [nonviolence] is some kind of a weak, passive, ‘oh I’ll just take it’ thing, which is just a total misread of the kind of full-force truth-force that’s needed in the world today to transform systems, and transform regimes.”

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