Saturday, February 14, 2015

Division The Trayvon/Jordon Project opens a discussion on bridging the divide.

"Division The Trayvon/Jordon Project" was one year in the making. John DiDonna co-wrote and directed the production in which his students conducted about 140 hours of interviews with people who were intimately involved in the aftermath of the two killings. The students had to learn the important art of listening. Most people only listen with the intent of coming up with an abrupt response. With some interviews the students might have wanted to argue points being discussed. As one character in the production noted, "You have to check your shit at the door."

This is the second installment in a trilogy of theatrical productions that examine these Central Florida events. Part one was a Beth Marshal production called "The Trayvon Martin Project" which was staged in the same Valencia Black Box Theater in October of 2014. Division is the second installment and the third will be a production called "Hoodies" which will be staged at this year's Orlando International Fringe Festival.

What was incredible about this world premiere, is that many of the people interviewed showed up to see the production.  Francis Oliver is the Sanford activist who managed to bring in 50,000 demonstrators into Sanford as people reacted to Trayvon Martin's death. She sat in the front row with her blond curly locks setting her apart from the crowd. John DiDonna told me several times about what a beautiful person she is. It turns out that her son is moving into a home right next to John. Avis-Marie Barnes plays Francis's part in the play and her steadfast determination echos throughout the production.

Photo Journalist Barry Kursch is played by Dean Walkuski in the production. He started taking pictures for the media at the tender age of 17 but after years of documenting violence, he has grown tired of documenting the dark side of human nature. The media have become more interested in clicks and views on the internet. Stating an opinion is now more important than accurately covering the news. He shot photos of all the demonstrations in both Sanford and Jacksonville.

Also in the audience was Ron Davis, who is the father of Jordon Davis who was shot and killed while seated in the back seat of a car in a gas station because Michael David Dunn didn't like the music that was playing.  Ron Davis was born in Harlem. His son saw a photo of Trayvon with a hoodie on and he said, "Dad, that looks like me." Six months later, Jordon was shots. Ron Davis has been fighting the stand your ground statute. "It has brought us back to the dark ages" he said. People with guns have no responsibility to retreat. It was first written with the intention that a gun in a home would keep you safer. Then it was extended to people having guns in their glove compartments in their cars. Whenever shots arc fired, there is often collateral damage, people are killed who were innocent bystanders, like a girl who was recently shot in a club in downtown Orlando. Stand your ground means families of people shot for no good reason can not seek criminal or civil damages. Ron wants us to seek to change the statute from "Stand your ground" to Duty to retreat."

This show addresses stereotypes and Florida itself has become a national stereotype. A student who was considering going to college in Florida was told by friends, "don't go there, you'll get shot." People from all walks of life were interviewed for this play. What emerged was a very human story, not just a black and white issue. Ron found that other countries consider the United States is guilty of human rights violations. We need to teach the next generation the principles of love and acceptance. We are all traveling through life on this tiny sphere together. We are stronger when we work together rather than being divided. This play had me choked up quite a few times. It is a good first step towards opening a dialogue towards change.

“Division: The Trayvon/Jordan Project”
A World Premiere Docudrama

The Valencia College Theater
Written and Directed by John DiDonna
Written in collaboration with Valencia students
William Adkins, Aidan Bohan-Moulton, Carolyn Ducker, Phillip Edwards, Nathan Jones, Anneliese Moon, Elina Moon, Dennis Ramos, Stelson Telfort, Michael Sabbagh.

Only 2 Performances Left
Feb 14 and 16 at 7:30 p.m.
Feb 15 at 2 p.m.
Building 3, Black Box Theater
Valencia College East Campus, Performing Arts Center
701 N. Econlockhatchee Trail, Orlando, FL.

$12 general admission
$10 for Valencia students, faculty, staff and senior citizens
Box Office: 407-582-2900

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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