David Hassler is the Director of the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University and is the author of Growing Season: The Life of a Migrant Community.
May 4th Voices: Speaking through the Wound of the Kent State Shootings
On May 4, 1970, four students were killed and nine injured on the campus of Kent State University by Ohio National Guard during a Vietnam War protest. Nearly forty years later, David scripted a play, May 4th Voices, based on the ongoing Kent State Shootings Oral History Project. This talk includes readings of excerpts from the play and discussion about the process of writing and staging; as well as the power of testimony in the oral history archives, which includes over 110 interviews that document first-person narratives and personal reactions to the events of May 4, 1970.
Kent State carries the symbolic wound of the Vietnam War and the protest movement in this country, along with the tragedy ten days later at Jackson State in which two African American students were killed and twelve others wounded in a similar anti-war protest. Engaging any community in the healing process of creating art and providing venues for the public to witness has the power to heal. If, as the 14th century Persian poet Rumi says, “the medicine is in the wound,” then May 4th Voices is an attempt to speak directly through the wound of Kent State and this cultural period, to move beyond a polarizing silence, and to create a space – like the ritual space of theatre – in which we might listen and respond to each other.
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