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April 2, 2015

The 20th Anniversary Oklahoma City Bombing Project

An emerging form of theatre art will reveal untold stories from the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in recognition of the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack. Oklahoma City University will present "The 20th Anniversary Oklahoma City Bombing Project" free to the public April 16 to 19 in OCU's Burg Theatre, located in the Kirkpatrick Fine Arts Center at N.W. 24th St. and Blackwelder Ave.

OCU theatre students will perform an original play based on interviews with more than 45 family members of victims, survivors, local officials and first responders. OCU commissioned award-winning playwright Steve Gilroy, author of several works including "Motherland," which toured the UK in 2009. The powerful drama shared the stories of women whose everyday lives were touched by the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Gilroy, who lives in England and is director of performing arts at Northumbria University, specializes in the genre of verbatim theatre, a documentary for the stage usually based on personal interviews and transcripts. The personal interviews that form the foundation of the play were conducted by OCU students, faculty, Gilroy and OCU Associate Dean of Theatre Brian Parsons. "We have a unique opportunity and responsibility to respond through art," Parsons said. "This work is a living memorial and a celebration of the tenacity, recovery and healing process of Oklahoma City." A portion of proceeds from the play's publication following the event will be donated to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. Gilroy said in the verbatim process, usually interviewers have to work quite hard to coax stories from people. "For this project, there is this incredible honesty that comes from people. I haven't seen that before in any other project I've done," Gilroy said. "I think that is something about the people of Oklahoma City. As soon as you start, people will talk about their experience of the bombing and that's one thing; but once they start to go beyond that, there are all sorts of different stories that say a lot about peoples' ability to recover. They find themselves 20 years later where they are no longer defined by what's happened and they are able to open new chapters in their lives." Courtney DiBello, instructor of stage management and faculty adviser at OCU, will direct the production. She said one unique aspect of the play is that the student actors and crew were either not born yet or were babies at the time of the bombing. "For these students who are participating in the production, and to a large extent the students who will be seeing the production, this is an education as well as a theatrical experience," she said. Parsons has a vision for the play beyond the April 2015 production. He wants every high school in Oklahoma to have access to the play by creating an education package that includes scripts, a documentary produced by OCU about the making of the play, a teacher's packet, and all the materials students will need to research, rehearse and create their own productions. "The overwhelming message that comes from everybody interviewed for this project is the regeneration of the city as the background," Gilroy said. "But I think in the end, it is going to be about these very powerful individual stories that when woven together are going to create quite a much bigger human story about recovery." Performances will be held at 8 p.m. April 16 to 18 and 2 p.m. April 19. Admission is free. Tickets are limited to four per reservation and can be reserved by calling 405-208-5227 or visit okcu.edu/ticketoffice. For photos, video clips and more, visit the media site at: http://www.okcu.edu/okcbombingpro ject/

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