The world-premiere production of BULLETPROOF BACKPACK opens at Florida Repertory Theatre today, August 11. It is an intense and important piece about school shootings and the question of “what would you do?”
Education Director Kody C Jones conceived and directed this show, with Broadway playwright Eric Coble writing it alongside a team of local Southwest Florida students. It is also a co-commission in partnership with Oregon Children’s Theatre. This show has been in the works for a couple years now, so it is an honor to see it come to life after delays due to COVID.
The show follows Cloe, a high school student who sees another student writing an “it list.” She isn’t sure if it is some kind of hit list or something more innocent, causing her to struggle with whether or not to tell someone. She begins to ask friends for help, and as the information trickles down the line, she receives perspectives on every side telling her what to do or not do. This is an incredible amount of pressure put on someone who does not want to ruin someone’s life over nothing, but does not want anyone harmed if it were to be something.
Cloe is played by Danica Murray, and she is brilliant in the role. You feel every single emotion she’s feeling as she struggles with what to do. The other students who become involved in this struggle are Yasmin (Tatum Bates), Troy (Wedler Lordeus), Nikki (Elizabeth Fleetham), Sammy (Keehnon J. Jackson), Dillard (Bryce Hagan), Gabby (Violet Mann), and Cloe’s sister, Andy (Macy Magas). We also see conversations between them and a teacher, Mr. Holgate (Zeke Bocklage), and the school security guard, Max (Cantrella Canady). This cast is truly incredible. They all brought such maturity and emotion to this show that deals with such a tough topic. You can see the passion and hard work they put into this show, and I really enjoyed each of their performances.
I loved the use of lighting and projections in this show. Rob Siler designed both, along with the incredible set. The sound was designed by Katie Lowe, and the costumes by Brooke Arthur. All aspects of the production added to the powerful storytelling experience and were very fitting for the show and the message it hoped to get across.
If you do not yet have tickets to see BULLETPROOF BACKPACK, I urge you to get them now. It is such an impactful and special show, and not one to be missed. It is heartbreaking to know that students have to fear for their lives every single day. We hear about these topics every day, but do you really know the impact it has on these students? That is what this production is about. This show used actual responses from students around the country who were interviewed for the production as dialogue. The cast and creative team did a wonderful job bringing BULLETPROOF BACKPACK to the stage. There were so many moments in the show that were absolutely stunning, and I appreciated all the work put into this powerful production.
The show runs from August 11-15. Tickets are only $20-25, and seating is limited as it is socially distanced. Masks are required for all patrons during this production. To learn more and buy tickets, click here: https://floridarepeducation.org/bulletproof-backpack/