Taking a closer look at Madison theater
Sep 20, 2013
04:27 PM
Stage Write

Three Surprising Things: Broom Street Theater's 'Triggered'

Three Surprising Things: Broom Street Theater's 'Triggered'

Petrovnia McIntosh (right) plays a mother who visits her son's killer (Tim Graf) in his jail cell while he awaits trial in 'Triggered'

One of the greatest things about live local theater is its power to surprise us, to defy our expectations and shake our sense of what we think we know. That said, sometimes it’s not a bad idea to have at least a little sense of what you’re getting into when the lights go down. In Stage Write’s latest recurring feature, we took a few minutes to chat with Callen Harty, the author/director of Triggered, Broom Street Theater's latest show, asking him to name three things about his play that will surprise the audience.

1. It’s not about a mass killing. It’s not even inspired by a particular event.

While Broom Street has never shied from being inspired by or ripping its topics from current headlines, Harty’s play was actually on the Broom Street schedule a year before events like Sandy Hook, the shooting at the Sikh Temple near Milwaukee or even the Trayvon Martin shooting occurred.

2. It doesn’t advocate for or against gun control.

“It’s not a didactic play,” says Harty, a self-described pacifist and peace advocate. “It’s about characters reacting to this violent event.” Six actors play twelve roles in the play, but four of them carry the meat of the matter: the shooter, the shooter’s father, the victim’s mother and a bystander.

Harty has long been alarmed by the violence in U.S. culture—he’s known three people who’ve been violently murdered since he arrived in Madison in the 1980s. In that sense, you could say this is a play that’s been percolating in the back of his mind for the better part of three decades. But Triggered’s main purpose isn’t to bemoan the current state of things, but to search for kindness and forgiveness amid the rubble.

“I try to find positives in the devastation of our lives,” says Harty, whose outlook on his own life has been profoundly affected by the heart attack he suffered a few years ago.   

3. There’s no actual violence in the play.

Triggered is about a shooting, yes, but the incident takes place before the play begins. So don’t expect any unexpected gunshot noises, fisticuffs or dead bodies littering the stage floor.

Harty sheepishly admits that Broom Street regulars might be surprised by that as well. “We used to have body counts for some of our shows,” he says, laughing. “That one had twenty-four, that one had three…”

Triggered opened last night and runs through October 12. Visit btsonline.org for more information. 

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About This Blog

Once upon a time—okay, it was the mid-'80s—a boy saw a performance of The Two Gentlemen of Verona at the annual summer Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada, and a spark was ignited. Decades later, that spark’s only grown stronger, burning brightly every time the lights go up and the actors begin to tread the stage.

I’ve spent a long time—okay, more than 15 years—watching and writing about Madison’s theater scene. Now, more than ever, it’s clear our bustling burgh is packed with vibrant theater companies doing important, cutting-edge work, whether it’s original and daring content, stunning musicals or thought-provoking stagings of modern and classic plays. Stage Write is a place where we’ll talk about those plays and the people who make them happen, maybe look behind the curtain a little and gain some new perspective on how and why it all comes together. Theater has the power to transform, to educate, to show us who we are and where we’re going in a way no other medium can. Hey, look: The curtain’s rising.

– Aaron R. Conklin
Follow Aaron on Twitter @arconklin

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