A new production of the musical “Oklahoma!” will be Broadway’s first contribution to the Hollywood “Gun Neutral Intiative,” according to Deadline magazine.
The producers of “Oklahoma!” announced the plan at the Sundance Film Festival, during an anti-gun panel entitled, “See Change: The Call for Gun Neutral Entertainment.”
The “Gun Neutral” program, established in October, allows movies, television shows, and, now, Broadway productions, to employ guns, so long as producers contribute to an initiative to destroy guns and establish “community arts” programs in areas plagued by gun violence. The “Gun Neutral” program “explores ways that entertainment companies and productions can address gun violence while preserving ‘authenticity and artistic freedom,'” according to Deadline.
In other words, those in charge of gun-heavy productions like “Oklahoma!,” which tells the story of Oklahoma’s first days of statehood through a cowboy love triangle, can pay a penance to Gun Neutral for the guns that appear in their plays, movies, and television shows. That way, they keep the guns, but can assuage their fears of encouraging gun violence by showcasing it in their productions.
“Gun Neutral is a collective acknowledgement the creative community can and will do more, that we need a shift on this issue, and that the movement must be unshackled from politics to succeed,” the group’s leadership told entertainment media Monday at the Sundance Film Festival. “As we increase our understanding of the consequences portrayals of gun violence promote on screens and stage, we may rethink them. We know we instigate cultural shifts in our work. Now we will start to account for that.”
The scheme is oddly similar to “carbon credits” and other “climage change offset” programs that allow A-list celebrities and politicians to spend time on their private jets without confronting the reality of their individual contributions to air pollution.
In the case of “Oklahoma!” a “donation will be made to organizations ‘committed to helping solve the gun violence crisis by destroying firearms that should be out of circulation,'” Deadline reports.
“We are honored and proud that Oklahoma! will be leading the way on Broadway by partnering with the Gun Neutral Initiative,” the show’s producer said in a statement. “Just because a particular story calls for the presence of a particular weapon, that doesn’t mean that we have to remain complacent in America’s gun-violence epidemic. Helping to destroy firearms that shouldn’t be in circulation is both a privilege and a responsibility.”
The production team hasn’t promised Gun Neutral a specific dollar amount, only that a check will be written later that accounts for (and “neutralizes”) every gun seen onstage during the production’s run. The show is expected to run for a “limited engagement” from early April until early September at Broadway’s Circle in the Square Theater.
Since its inception, the Gun Neutral program has only attracted a handful of sponsors, and, as of yet, no A-list productions. So far, only three movies — indie film “American Woman,” a live action short called “Human Terrain,” and a documentary from 2015 called “Armor of Light” (which is contributing retroactively) — have agreed to Gun Neutral’s penance scheme.