Trig­ger­ing emo­tions

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Phillip Valys Staff writer

Stu­dents in Mi­ami-Dade cre­ate, per­form anti-gun mu­si­cal.

Eight stu­dents stand in a semi­cir­cle on­stage, each por­tray­ing a char­ac­ter af­fected by gun vi­o­lence.

Eve­lyn Ros, 24, ap­proaches a mi­cro­phone near the stage apron, her ex­pres­sion solemn, her fig­ure framed by a dozen light bulbs sus­pended on strings, and the Cuban­born Mi­ami Dade Col­lege stu­dent sings in Span­ish. Af­ter fin­ish­ing her twominute solo “1,000 Rea­sons To Love,” a haunt­ing melody Ros wrote about love over­whelm­ing ha­tred, chore­og­ra­pher Ni’ja Whit­son barks the next stage di­rec­tion fromthe floor.

“Search for your rea­son to love!” Whit­son shouts. “Find your rea­son in the air be­hind you. Grasp the air. Feel the light!”

Ros and com­pany pace the stage in slow­mo­tion, arms out­stretched, pre­tend­ing to pluck some­thing near the light bulbs. The ac­tors are re­hears­ing a scene for “Trig­ger,” a sober­ing hip-hop mu­si­cal tack­ling the scourge of gun vi­o­lence and mass shoot­ings, which will be staged at 8 tonight at the Lehman The­ater on the North Cam­pus of Mi­ami Dade Col­lege.

On its sec­ond stop af­ter pre­mier­ing in March in Blacks­burg, Va., the play is the brain­child of poet Aaron Jaf­feris and com­poser By­ron Au Yong, and is timed to the 10th an­niver­sary of the Vir­ginia Tech shoot­ings that killed 32 peo­ple and in­jured17 on April 16, 2007. The piece, de­scribed by its creators as com­bin­ing “Hamil­ton”-style rap verses with commentary on pre­vent­ing gun-re­lated deaths, strikes a chord with Jaf­feris.

“I think of our sho was the op­po­site of a mass shoot­ing,” Jaf­feris says dur­ing a re­cent re­hearsal in the Lehman The­ater. “In each city, we’re us­ing our songs to fo­ment change and en­cour­age voices to rise up. The ques­tion is, ‘Why do young peo­ple shoot each other or get shot, and how do we get the shoot­ings to stop?’ ”

Jaf­feris and Yong wrote 10 songs for “Trig­ger,” each spun from in­ter­views with fam­ily mem­bers of Vir­ginia Tech victims; a child psy­chol­o­gist; a New­town, Conn., school ad­min­is­tra­tor; and the former po­lice chief of Blacks­burg. But to adapt th­ese sto­ries for ev­ery city that “Trig­ger” vis­its, Jaf­feris says, he also tapped lo­cal par­tic­i­pants to cre­ate cho­ral mu­sic, both per­sonal and “heart-stir­ring.”

Ros wrote her song, “1,000 Rea­sons To Love,” based on her ex­pe­ri­ence em­i­grat­ing two years ago from Cuba, where pri­vately owned guns are banned, to Hialeah. Gun vi­o­lence is a sore spot for Ros: When she­was 6, her mother’s cousin found a gun in Cuba, shot and mur­dered his girl­friend, and later killed him­self.

“I didn’t un­der­stand why a cousin could do some­thing like that to an­other per­son,” says Ros, who is study­ing pre-phar­macy at the col­lege. “When you see what’s hap­pen­ing at Vir­ginia Tech, and the Or­lando night­club [Pulse], peo­ple seem to have no fear of guns in Amer­ica. I thought of all the rea­sons you have to hate, and I re­al­ized there are so many more rea­sons to love. Ifwe can love, we can make a bet­ter world.”

“Trig­ger” clocks in at one hour, and will be fol­lowed by a town-hall­style seg­ment invit­ing the au­di­ence to dis­cuss be­long­ing, for­give­ness, jus­tice and safety and be­com­ing an ad­vo­cate for end­ing gun vi­o­lence.

PHILLIP VALYS/STAFF

Eve­lyn Ros, 24, of Mi­ami, sings a song she wrote for the hip-hop play “Trig­ger.”

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