UCLA student Danielle Jensen is folding 17 origami birds, one for every victim of the 2018 Parkland Shooting. 

  • UCLA students prepare a play on gun violence on anniversary of Parkland shooting
  • One student involved is a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High
  • Production is intended to honor those who lost their lives in the tragedy

“I hope this is a good way to honor them,” she says.

Jensen graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School a few years ago, and her younger brother was in class when the shooting started.

“I didn’t know what to do, I just sat there for 10 minutes not knowing what to do,” said Jensen.

So, to honor the memory of those lost, a year later, she and a group of UCLA students are getting involved with some on-stage activism.

Jensen who is a dramaturg and associate producer on the show says, “It’s a big honor, it’s a big weight to carry to do something that is so close to home and so impactful to so many people.”  

But this staged reading of the off-Broadway play Church and State is unique. There won’t be fancy costumes, flashy props, or colorful sets. The show has been stripped of all that is unessential; everything, except it’s unapologetic message.

Main actor, Carl Ballantine practices some of his lines.

“But our faith gets tested on a daily basis and it’s hard to keep our faith when something truly horrific occurs, like the shooting at Elk Grove Elementary,” he recites.

Ballantine plays Charles Whitmore, the main character, a politician whose support for the second amendment comes into question after a shooting at his child’s school.

“It’s almost cathartic” Ballantine says, because he agrees with the changes the politician ends up making at the end.

He hopes to deliver a powerful performance on the anniversary of the Parkland Shooting, with an even more powerful message. 

He recites another line.

“And I suddenly saw what my purpose was, not to sit at home or in church and quietly pray for things to change but to actually do something to stop other families from not having to suffer the same tragedy.”

Jensen's family was fortunate to have escaped tragedy. Those that didn’t will be remembered with origami birds that she’ll be hanging in the hallway next to the theater. And with a production that hopes to shine a light on the issues that remain unresolved.