This post was written to highlight the exceptional job Gabriela and Priscila Diaz have accomplished to shed light on the current gun and mental health issue in America. It is very brave to write about current issues and share your opinion in a nation that has become so polarized due to diverging opinions on almost every front. I hope that more people come forward and tell their stories or share their thoughts unapologetically like the Diaz sisters did so that we can all become united through empathy and art.
On February 14, 2018, a gunman opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people and injuring 17 others. I was in my sophomore year of high school when this happened, and I couldn’t help but be afraid of this happening to my school too. Living less than an hour away to the tragedy, the reality of gun violence in America finally struck me and the thousands of other students in neighboring schools. Just like any crime, you never expect it to happen to you or anywhere near you, and when it finally does, the shock of it can paralyze many into fear, immobility, and total lack of action.
Not the Diaz sisters however. Gabriela and Priscila Diaz are currently juniors in the Drama Department at Doral Academy but are wise beyond their years. These two sisters share an unprecedented passion for theatre and so, they decided to use that in order to tell a story they thought needed to be told. In their Sophomore year of high school, they attended the Florida District 8 Individual Events competition and presented their play: Defining Normal.
This play centered around main character Douglas and his “abnormal” way of thinking which ends up driving him to committing a mass shooting at his school. Their play is written with finesse and sophistication, and in that way it isn’t offensive or making light of the situation it is discussing. On the other side of the spectrum, the play also isn’t preaching and obviously partisan and politically inclined.
This play is about the victims, not the crime.
In using this idea, the Diaz sisters have been able to tell a wonderful story that is hearth-wrenching, yet totally raw and real. Co-playwright Gabriela Diaz shares the sisters vision when she said, “We hope that, through utilizing a creative story-telling outlet like playwrighting, we can call attention to the one of the largest threats to what we, students, had believed to be a safe environment, and encourage others to seek help if needed, and advocate for change.” This is the method they used to provide for their society, and their service to their cause is not taken for granted due to the gravity of their message and the obvious love they hold for their craft.
At the District competition, they were recognized as the “Critic’s Choice” play and received a superior rating, therefore they were taken to states and at states they also received Excellent scores. Their form of service is a less obvious yet just as powerful form. They are shedding light on an important issue in society, bringing notice to a change that needs to be made and providing for the communities suffering from these events. They even tried to put up a production of this award-winning play in our school, however administration informed them the issue was “too time sensitive” and quickly dismissed their plans.
This issue will never not be time sensitive.
Death will never not be time sensitive.
Which is why a play is the perfect format to showcase injustice and host an open discussion about the real issues we see in America, much less the world.
It is a disservice to prevent pieces like these from being performed. Pieces that really talk about something important, and relate to the humanity in each and every one of us. That humanity is the missing link that we are missing. The link that prevents the unity, that is causing the polarization that I previously mentioned exists in our country. Once we begin the conversation, once we stop making excuses, once we realize that everything that matters right now is “time sensitive”, it is then when we will be able to grow and continue our service to the world.
Gabriela and Priscila have graciously given me their permission to include a portion of their play in this blog post. If you enjoy what you read and want more exposure to their beautiful art, contact them through e-mail or Instagram.
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DEFINING NORMAL © || Playwrights: Priscila Diaz Gabriela Diaz || Troupe 6358 || Doral Performing Arts Academy || Final Revision: January 10, 2019
This play includes real people who have lost their lives in school shootings. Ben and Grace Bernall are based off of students in Columbine (April 20, 1999), Althea and Jason are based off of victims who both died in the Marshall County High School shooting (January 23, 2018), Morana and Eve are based off of two 11 and 13 year old sisters who were attacked in the West Nickel Mines School Shooting (October 2, 2006), Digorry May and Amanda White (Red Lake High School; March 21, 2005) and Macy and her father are based on a father daughter story in an American shooting. Due to the large cast list, actors who are not playing victims will have dual roles (e.g Police Officers, Teachers, Anchor etc…).
“And suddenly he thought, I’m the abnormal one now. Normalcy was a majority concept, the standard of many and not the standard of just one man.”Richard Matheson
(In moments between scene changes, actors backstage chant ‘normal’ with a steady drum beat.)
As audience enters, students are on stage seated in chairs in a classroom facing stage left. A chair in the center of the classroom is empty, hinting that someone is absent. All actors whisper “normal” at different times, tempos, and tones. This continues until house doors close. Lights out. Actors chant in unison “normal”, as their volume increases. On the final chant, they shout “normal”. Lights up, revealing DOUGLAS.
DOUGLAS A steady and quiet drumming plays throughout his monologue. Normal? You’re going to hear that word. A lot. In your life, you overlook and scorn the ordinary events. Other times, you experience these moments where you find yourself questioning everything you’ve learned and who you’ve become. Now tell me. How does someone go from normal to abnormal? What makes a person so different that you add two little letters in front of that word, altering its entire meaning. What was the change? By the time you find out, it’s too late. Because there will always be people…like me. People who never knew the power in themselves, until someone hurt them badly. We were taught that we can’t let the anger and hate overshadow the good things in life, but what if there aren’t enough pleasant moments to fill the endless void of suffering and humiliation…You don’t know what I’m capable of. You don’t know what any of these people are capable of! One switch goes off in their brain. One…trigger…Normal? NORMAL?! AM I NORMAL?! IS THE WAY I’M FEELING NORMAL! …Changes. Life is full of them. Yes, they’re painful, but nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong…But, when does life become abnormal? …I know. The moment when something normal…changes. Drumming stops. Students, in unison, lift the chairs over their heads and as they stomp, lights out. They split and exit.
Lights up on an empty stage. BEN is standing, smoking a cigarette. Eerie music plays throughout entire scene.
DOUGLAS Enters hurriedly with a duffle bag in hand. Stops at BEN. What the hell is wrong with you?!
BEN Me?! You’re the one who sent me-
DOUGLAS I told you not to come today.
BEN Exactly! Who sends a message at midnight telling someone not to show up to school that day?
DOUGLAS …You’re right. I’m sorry.
BEN Anyways, you missed the test we had in third so, good luck with that shit. Brings cigarette up to mouth
DOUGLAS It doesn’t matter anymore.
BEN puts cigarette down Are you okay?
DOUGLAS Listen Ben, I like you. Go on and get out of here. Go. Home.
BEN What’s this all about?
DOUGLAS Just go!
BEN What’s in the bag?…Are you planning some sort of senior prank?
DOUGLAS …Sure, yeah. I just don’t want you to be… affected by it.
BEN No fucking way! I wanna help! Reaches for his bag
DOUGLAS Before BEN could reach for the bag, he grabs his wrist. NO! Calmly releases BEN’s wrist No… this is not meant for you…
BEN nods …Alright… I’ll go… You know, you never were normal.
DOUGLAS smirks I know. Adjusts his bag and exits stage right, confidently, into the school.
BEN Pauses. Goes to say something as Douglas exits, but can’t. Exits stage left. Lights out.
If you are curious to read more, ask the playwrights questions, or have any other concern, again remember to contact them using the information above the except.
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Thanks for reading, I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day, and don’t forget service is anything that you can do help others. Whether big or small, an impact is an impact.