EM Lewis would like you to meet her monsters

Mark Collins in 'The Gun Show.' Photo by Brian Landis Folkins.
Mark Collins in ‘The Gun Show.’ Photo by Brian Landis Folkins.

By EM Lewis
Playwright, The Gun Show
For the DCPA NewsCenter

We have a tendency, us humans, to keep the ugliest parts of ourselves well-hidden. All our monsters locked in boxes, all our beasts closed up in castles.

When we consider that something is ugly, we shut it away. And shutting it away makes us feel like it is something to be ashamed of. Even if it’s not.

EM Lewis QuoteDoes this sound familiar? Do you know this story?

My play The Gun Show, which will be presented by And Toto Too starting April 13 at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, is about guns in America. More broadly, it is about the great political divide we find ourselves in today. But it’s also about my deepest and most personal demon, which I carefully shut up in a box inside me for a decade. I taped it shut with strong, imaginary duct tape, and pushed it down deep, and carried it around inside me like a stone.

Don’t worry. The play is full of jokes and funny bits. I believe the darker you go, the funnier you better get. the play is about vulnerability … and is there anything funnier than that? But it’s also about taking that box of darkness out and opening it up and sharing it with strangers.

The first time it was performed, three years ago in Chicago, I thought I was going to throw up. Vulnerability is terrifying, you know? And this is some pretty radical vulnerability I’m practicing here. Everything I am – even the ugly bits – everything I’m trying desperately to figure out – is on the page and on the stage.

I’ve learned something between that first performance of The Gun Show, though, and this 14th production going up in Denver. I’ve learned that I’m not alone, with my closed-up beasts and monsters. I’ve realized that closing them up inside made me a very lonely person. And I’ve discovered that being brave enough to share my own story allows other people to share theirs, and makes us all feel less alone.

Don’t you love theater?

It’s not easy, this sort of sharing. This isn’t an easy show. It is a messy wrestling with difficult subjects, both personal and political. But if we’re brave enough to open up some of these boxes inside us, maybe there is understanding to be had on the other side. Maybe there is empathy. Maybe there is healing.


Come and see.

Editor’s Note: The DCPA NewsCenter offers guest columns from a variety of local and national voices covering a wide range of issues. To submit a proposed guest column, email your name and proposed topic to jmoore@dcpa.org.

In the Spotlife: Our previous look at actor Mark Collins

About our Guest Columnist: EM Lewis

EM Lewis is an award-winning playwright and librettist. Recipient of the Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University, the Steinberg Award (Song of Extinction) and Primus Prize (Heads) from the American Theater Critics Association, the Ted Schmitt Award from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, a fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and the 2016 Oregon Literary Fellowship in Drama. She was recently commissioned by the Kennedy Center to write a play for college students, called You Can See All the Stars. Her epic play Magellanica, which is set in Antarctica, will premiere at Artists Rep in Portland, and her intimate play Apple Season will premiere at New Jersey Rep next season. And she is taking the Portland production of The Gun Show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer.  Lewis is published by Samuel French, and is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild.  She lives in Oregon. 

The Gun Show: Tickets and information
From a farming community in rural Oregon to the big cities of Los Angeles and New York, The Gun Show features one actor (Mark Collins) sharing playwright EM Lewis‘ unique, middle-ground perspective on the issue with her true stories about America’s favorite and perhaps most dangerous pastime.

  • Presented by And Toto Too Theatre Company
  • Directed by Susan Lyles
  • April 13-29
  • At the The Commons on Champa, 1245 Champa St.
  • Performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays
  • Call 720-583-3975 or go to andtototoo.org

About Next Stage NOW
The Commons on Champa is a newly available performing space at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. The Next Stage NOW is a public initiative with a mission to enliven, diversify and sustain the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Denver Arts & Venues has made $100,000 available to support public performances, programming and place making initiatives at the Denver Performing Arts Complex in 2017.

About And Toto Too Theatre Company

And Toto Too, founded by Susan Lyles, is Colorado’s only theatre company dedicated exclusively to women’s voices. The Gun Show marks its 12th season-opener. For information, email susanlyles@andtototoo.org

Selected previous Guest Columns:
Janice Sinden Eliminating the NEA would be bad for our economy
Judy Craymer on the origins of Mamma Mia!
Douglas Langworthy on ‘translating’ Shakespeare: First, do no harm
David Nehls: Live theatre returns to Elitch Gardens after 24 years
Gillian McNally: Colorado’s oldest theatre celebrates Artistic Director Tom McNally
Margie Lamb on the Henry Awards: Something doesn’t add up
Bryan VanDriel on Lloyd Norton: A name that will live on in Greeley
Jessica Jackson on Creede Repertory Theatre’s 50th anniversary season
Susan Lyles on 10 years of staging plays for women in Denver

More Colorade theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

EM Lewis. The Gun Show
Playwright EM Lewis and her husband.

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