Utah Students Take ‘Lockdown Generation’ Fears To The Stage

Jan 28, 2020, 2:42 PM | Updated: Jun 16, 2022, 11:46 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – It’s art imitating life for some Utah high school students concerned about gun violence. Rather than live in fear, they’re taking their experience to the stage, hoping for more than a standing ovation.

Preparing for college is hard enough. Add to that a far greater fear: gun violence, and student Cherie Banuri walks the halls of Highland High School with anxiety.

“There’s just kind of this looming threat constantly,” said Banuri.

She’s part of the “lockdown generation.”

“Just having all of the crowds in the hallways brings about a sense of anxiety,” she said. “You feel like anyone could do anything.”

Banuri, along with other Utah high school students, is expressing those feelings creatively on stage. She acts and sings in a play – “The Death of an American Teenager” – with the Youth Theater at the U.

Penny Caywood is the artistic director.

“It’s really about young people, that feeling of not knowing if it’s a real drill, if it’s real or if it’s a drill,” said Caywood. “There’s short scenes about bullet-proof backpacks, which are on sale today, and they have friends who have them at their school. Scenes about kids wondering where they would hide if there would be an incident.”

The group performed in Scotland last summer to full houses and great reviews.

“I could tell that they had lots to say, so I wanted to facilitate them getting their feelings out, expressing themselves. That’s really the whole purpose of this,” Caywood said.

The play is a look at gun violence through the teens’ eyes. The students wrote it and said the whole process has been cathartic.

“I have definitely cried a bunch of times during the rehearsal process, and even during a few of the performances,” said Saffron Bellenger, a senior at Skyline High School.

“To be able to do something like this and be able to express in a creative way, which is the way I’m most able to express things, is 100% so cathartic,” Banuri said.

Connor McIntosh, a senior from Rowland Hall, said, “All of our experiences and all of our stories, our collective story, is coming together to produce this really important piece of theater.”

It’s informative, inspiring and entertaining, yes, but Banuri and her castmates want more than that.

“Being in the show has made me realize that it shouldn’t be the norm, that it shouldn’t be something I’m just used to,” Bellenger said. “This is an issue that everyone should be a part of doing their best to fight against is I think what I’d really like to accomplish.”

A generation fighting for change, one scene at a time.

The students will perform the play on Wednesday, Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. at Rowland Hall. Admission is a suggested $5 donation that will go to the theater department of a school affected by gun violence.

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Utah Students Take ‘Lockdown Generation’ Fears To The Stage