Catawba College Blue Masque Presents Natural Shocks: A One Woman Play in a Tornado

Catawba College's Blue Masque begins the 2023-2024 theatre season at the Florence Busby Corriher Theatre with a one-hour, one-woman tour de force, the play Natural Shocks by one of the “most popular playwrights in American theatre,” Lauren Gunderson.

Natural Shocks runs in the Florence Busby Corriher Theatre on October 20, 21 at 7:30 p.m. and October 21, 22 at 2:30 p.m. Natural Shocks will perform at Lee Street Theatre on November 3, 4 at 7:30.

In the show, Angela is trapped in her basement, awaiting an approaching tornado. Though a self-proclaimed unreliable narrator, she begins to reflect on a lifetime of trauma, illuminating the truth behind her endangerment. Based on Hamlet’s famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy, Natural Shocks is “a damning condemnation of violence, abuse, and firearms in America.”

Playwright Lauren Gunderson launched a nationwide campaign of theater activism against gun violence with productions of Natural Shocks on anniversaries of the Columbine school massacre. “What is the use of art in a time of crisis?” Gunderson asks. “I’m trying to change the world. If theater is done right, it can move people . . . we could use less political rhetoric and more art. I believe that. Our country is better if we have art at our core.”

Gunderson had wanted to write a play about women and guns in America for decades. In what she describes as "a flurry of about a week," she churned out the first draft of the Natural Shocks, about a woman waiting out a tornado accompanied by her fears and her gun. That was shortly before a shooter killed 17 people at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine's Day.

"It shook me, like it shook so many people, to the core," says Gunderson. "But what was incredible was seeing the actual traction that [the issue of gun control] was finally getting because of these kids."

Catawba College Senior McCann directs the production as part of her Catawba theatre capstone experience. A candidate for the BA degree in theatre, McCann has done it all on stage and backstage.

Haley White and Jovey McFarland alternate performing the solo role of Angela.

Scenic design is by junior Zac Hunter, costume design is by junior Lindsay Hart, lighting design is by first-year Jennie Conner, and sound design is by Hayley McCann and Rod Oden.

Kerala Bannister is the stage manager, Ila Deese is the light board operator, Skyler Dunn is the soundboard operator, and Lindsey Hart and the non-performing cast members are the running crew.

“Given the state of the world and the population the issues in this play affect, we thought this was an important story that highlights not just one woman’s experience but that of many women of multiple backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, walks of life, abilities, sexualities, religions, and more,” says McCann.

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