Eyes Opened and Fists Clenched

By: Madison Tolley

“I’ve already got mine picked out!”

Gorgeous prom dresses, the dainty color pink, and frilled scrapbooks to record the memories. These are all things a teenage girl may encounter in her lifetime, yet only if she’s lucky. Instead, a disturbing percentage of adolescent and teenage girls find themselves choosing their funeral dresses, the color red smeared as haphazardly as their blood on the asphalt, and scrapbooks filled with obituaries of their dead friends instead of living ones. Such is the life of a girl roped into the never-ending violence and crime of a female gang.

Before opening the program provided by NC A&T State University, it would appear by the cover that the production of Breath, Boom to be performed at KCACTF was about life on the streets. Three young girls with hardened eyes stare off at their surroundings; familiar to them and completely foreign to the majority of their audience. With expert manipulation of sound and the space, a dozen or so girls from the streets we previewed on the program overtook the auditorium, uttering what can only be called battle cries and ascending upon the stage and each other.

Loud music pumped through the speakers, combinations of R&B and rap with strong, heavy beats that matched the punches soon to be thrown. The first scene ended with screams in the wings and blood left behind on the stage, but only silence offered from the audience. Stunned as they entered this violent crime-filled world, it was unclear what to expect from the duration of the performance, which continued on to follow the life of Prix, played by Brittany Timmons.

The show spans fourteen years and multiple locations, and simple sets largely informed the scenery. To signify the park, there was a bench, to represent the prison cells there were bunk beds. The most detailed set was that of Prix’s room, using two doors, multiple decorated flats, a bed, and a desk to present the living space of the protagonist. The lighting followed different moods, such as a sickly green color to represent when Prix was having hallucinatory flashbacks of her abusive stepfather.

The technical elements were satisfying enough although not exemplary, they served their purpose but didn’t inspire. The most valuable part of this show lies in an aspect that isn’t always presented: the research. Two pages of the program brim with small letters detailing the statistics on female gangs, the violence they’re subjected to experiencing, the hazards of exiting a gang, and the solutions the world has presented. Noting that a horrifying 94% of female gang members will become pregnant at some point and that at least a third will be arrested puts into perspective the dangers these girls face. This show not only displays a prominent, relevant issue…it explains the dilemma and offers helpful, active solutions. The most impacted audience is an audience that walks away wanting to take action.

When critiquing, the most difficult question to answer is: was this production worth doing at all? For the audience members of NC A&T State University’s performance of Breath, Boom the answer was a resounding battle cry of “YES.”