gUN COUNTRY marks the first time someone other than one of Houses on the Moon’s original co-founders has directed one of its pieces. Worsham has been working with the company for several years in various capacities, including assistant director and writer. “I fell in love with them years ago when they were developing something with Lucy Thurber,” Worsham recalls. “They were working on a new play that dealt with eating disorders. I was pretty new to the city and Lucy [whom Worsham married last year], got me involved. They do this pretty awesome interview process, get people’s stories and develop art out of them. It really had an impact on what would become my process as both an activist and a director, dealing with non-artist performers and non-artist storytellers.” When the gun violence writing group came along, Worsham shared her own tale of growing up around firearms, revealing her as the ideal director for the job.
Jane Dubin, a Houses on the Moon producer and board member, admits that gUN COUNTRY wasn’t initially part of the production slate. “When the project began, the idea was to create a play,” she says. “I don’t think they realized that the gUN COUNTRY aspect of it would be such a powerful evening of performance. I said to them, ‘You know, you have to keep doing this. It’s not a means to an end; it’s an end unto itself.'” Of course, the blending of professional and amateur storytellers creates challenges along with opportunities. For gUN COUNTRY, all of the performers save one have lived through the experiences they describe. “It’s meant to be theatrical storytelling, not acting,” says Worsham. “I tended to be really hard on the actors,” she recalls, telling them, “‘Go back to that moment and be there in it and experience it again.'” She worked with them to remove the performer’s lens.
Even though Houses on the Moon’s personal process sometimes drudges up pain, Weiner believes the payoff is worth it. “When you really commit yourself in a real place, a truthful place, you begin to give more,” she says. “I’ve never found one moment in our work where it was like, ah, that wasn’t worth it. Now we’re at the point where we’re going to be able to reach a lot more people. We want to, because we believe in what we’re doing.” Worsham agrees. “The part that they love the most isn’t a big opening night or press. Their favorite moment is going into a mental health center and talking to someone who had an eating disorder and getting them to tell their story,” she says. “They’re more interested in giving visibility on that individual level, knowing that those smaller revolutions within people accumulate and have impacts that echo in a community in ways that make a real difference.”