The Kent Stage to Screen “May 4th Voices”
A preview of the video production “May 4th Voices” will be held on Thursday, May 2, at 7 p.m. at the Kent Stage. The production will premiere on Western Reserve PBS (WNEO 45.1/WEAO 49.1) on Friday, May 3, at 10:30 p.m.
“May 4th Voices,” is a play that was written by David Hassler, director of Kent State’s Wick Poetry Center, as part of an Ohio Humanities Council grant from 2009-2010.
“The play stemmed from the ‘Kent State Shootings Oral History Project,’” Hassler says. “There are more than 115 interviews with guardsmen, students, townspeople and politicians that document personal narratives and reactions of May 4th and its aftermath. The voices in the play were woven together anonymously to tell the human story and emotional truth of the tragic events.”
In 2010, the play was performed in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the shootings. Hassler says it was the first time to hear all of those voices together.
“It’s been my hope to break the silence around May 4th,” says Hassler. “Whole communities silence themselves over traumatic events. I hope ‘May 4th Voices’ works toward healing by speaking through the wound of May 4th. It creates a safe place to hear the truths together and to enter into a healing dialogue.”
October 2012 marked another milestone in the project.
“We made a filmed version of the play,” says Hassler. “It is exciting because 15 Kent State students were giving voice to those from generations ago. It was a learning experience for them.”
The filmed version has also been funded by a grant from the Ohio Humanities Council with additional support from Kent State’s College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History and Wick Poetry Center.
Katherine Burke, director and Kent State theatre instructor, agrees with Hassler on how important student involvement was to this project.
“The joy in this work for me is the collaboration with the student actors and seeing how we as an ensemble can work together to create things that we couldn’t have done as individuals,” Burke says. “Essentially, I find myself being less of a director and more of a facilitator and someone who brings us together in a space to create something that is meaningful and truthful.”
Megan Melville, senior electronic media major, was grateful to be part of the collaboration.
“This is the second time I’ve done ‘May 4th Voices,’” Melville says. “The first time was during the 40th May 4 Commemoration. This piece is very moving and historical. I really enjoyed the fact that we got to speak other peoples’ words. It’s not very often that an actor gets the chance to speak real characters’ words. It was an honor to be bestowed the privilege to give them a voice.”
The event on May 2 also serves as a book release for the play and the Teacher’s Resource Book, which was published by the Kent State University Press in collaboration with the Kent Historical Society.
“There have been contributions to this project from several educators around the country,” says Hassler.
Western Reserve PBS co-sponsored the preview screening. The video production also will air on the organization’s Fusion channel (WNEO 45.2/WEAO 49.2) on Saturday, May 4, at 10 p.m., and Monday, May 6, at 8 p.m.
Burke believes that it is an exciting opportunity to have the support of a local broadcasting company and she feels showing the movie will help bring the community even closer together.
“I think the most important part about this piece has always been to bring healing to a community that has been divided about these issues,” says Burke. “People have been wounded literally and emotionally by these events. I hope the healing comes across in the movie and that people feel as moved by this piece as much as it has moved me.”
For more information about the video project, email Hassler at firstname.lastname@example.org.