Gunplays is a series of five plays by William Electric Black addressing inner city violence and guns. The idea of these plays is to generate understanding of the social inequities and disparities behind this plague that our society has so far been helpless to resolve. The debut productions of all five plays in the series were presented by Crystal Field, executive director, at Theater for the New City in New York City.
Black launched the Gunplays series in 2013 with “Welcome Home Sonny T,” a drama that spotlighted two significant forces driving the 21st century epidemic of American gun violence: the social impact of alienation and unemployment on young black males and the declining influence of black ministers as a force of stability in affected neighborhoods.
The second play in the series, “When Black Boys Die” (2015), is a family drama in which a teenage girl tries to understand the madness of gun violence that has killed her brother and consumed her mother. The third, presented by Theater for the New City for 2016 Gun Awareness Month, is “Death of a Black Man (A Walk By),” a play with hip hop verse, chanting, songs, and poetry in which the audience moves through a neighborhood that experienced gun violence. The fourth, “The Faculty Room” (2017), is a drama that swallows its audience into a schoolhouse in a mandatory lock down because of an imminent gunfight between two students. The final play, “Subway Story (A Shooting)” (2018) combines music, poetry, dialogue, movement, and immersive theater in a way that makes it the most unique staging in the series as a teenage girl rides the subway looking to buy a gun as a means to deal with her abusive mother.
William Electric Black, aka Ian Ellis James, is a seven-time Emmy Award–winning writer in the children's TV world. His credits include PBS (Food Thoughts), Sesame Workshop (Sesame Street), Nickelodeon (Allegra's Window), Lancit Media (Backyard Safari), Topstone Productions (Puzzle Place), and many more.
In 2021, his half-hour project, Rap-U-Cation, was optioned by FarView Entertainment. He was also hired by FarView to develop their new show, Dragon Clouds. His development of a Sesame Street–like in-school program for 5–6-year-olds, A Gun Is Not Fun, has recently been featured by NPR, ABC6, AP NEWS Chicago, The Tokyo Times, and NBC.