Kyle John Schmidt | Why Write This New Play?

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The Ingram New Works Festival is here! Time to celebrate #newplay creation here in Nashville. The Festival isn’t just an opportunity to see great new plays first in Nashville before the rest of the country; it’s an opportunity for you to get to know the artists behind the plays. We sat down with 2015-2016 Ingram Playwright Kyle John Schmidt and asked him why he wrote this story.

Kyle:  The idea for The Secretary began germinating a couple years ago after the Sandy Hook tragedy where a lone gunman broke into an elementary school and murdered dozens of children and teachers.  While the entire country was embroiled in a debate about gun control, I became consumed by what was happening in my hometown.

My town is headquarters to the world’s largest supplier of gun parts and shooting accessories.  When Sandy Hook happened, the company in my town was inundated with orders.  They sold enough high-capacity ammunition magazines in the weeks following Sandy Hook to equal 3 years of demand.  The people I grew up with got more overtime than they could handle, the company expanded into a larger location, and more people got hired.  In short, business boomed.  And I realized that my hometown was uniquely positioned to profit from the gun-buying binges that paradoxically surround gun-related tragedies.

And the more I thought about Sandy Hook, my town, and the economics of guns, the more I thought of my mom.  She was an elementary teacher for years, but also has a deep, abiding love of guns.  Some years ago, an Olympic marksman came to town and taught my mom and her friend Marge how to target shoot in a goat pasture.  THIS.  REALLY.  HAPPENED.   My mom got obsessed and guns soon became these unexpected touchstones of motherly love.  She offered hellish retribution if I was ever the victim of a crime (“Make sure they know that your mother carries.”) and enthusiastically welcomed guests to our house with a tour of her guns and a target shooting lesson (“But only if I like them.”)  I, in turn, chided her with an amusing moniker (“Granny Guns”) and mythologized her adventures in gun-slinging with stories at parties a thousand miles away.

But I also realized that her newfound gun obsession didn’t grow in a vacuum: both of her parents had recently passed, me and my siblings had all left home, my dad had taken a job out of state, an ankle sprain was restricting her movement, and she was living alone for the first time in decades.  Having a gun . . . or fifteen guns . . . made her feel safe, secure, powerful, and in control of a landscape that had irrevocably changed around her.  And shooting with her friends became this joyful thing that got my her out of the house, into the world, and re-engaged with life.

So the more I thought about guns, the more they took on a kaleidoscope of meanings.  They were objects of terror, tokens of love, life savers, job creators, and my mom’s new favorite sport.  It was the horror, humor, and beauty of this kaleidoscope that brought me to writing The Secretary.

The Secretary | May 9 & 11

Ruby runs a gun company dedicated to arming women for self-protection. With products like The Bridesmaid, The Babysitter, and The Mallwalker, each of the company's guns is named after a woman who used a gun and saved a life- more often than not, her own. When an elderly secretary at the local high school confronts a threat in her office with six bullets, RUBY responds by naming her latest gun after the reluctant hero: “The Secretary.” But as production begins on The Secretary, guns start going off all around town- and no one’s pulling the trigger. The Secretary is an offbeat comedy about safety, survival, and guns for a world that’s up in arms.

*This play contains adult themes and language.

Learn more and buy tickets to the Ingram New Works Festival here.