EU Jacksonville: 1990 Mass Shooting in Jacksonville is Brought to Stage by Local Playwright Dr. Tim Gilmore

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FSCJ Dramaworks at Wilson Center for the Arts staged the world premiere of Dr. Tim Gilmore’s latest play Repossessions: Mass Shooting in Baymeadows during April 11 – 14, 2019. The play, a study of the aftermath of a mass shooting in Jacksonville, Florida on June 18, 1990, was widely publicized in advance by the local press, which brought full-house audiences.

Playwright Gilmore wrote the play based on numerous interviews with family members, friends, and survivors of the tragedy as well as firefighers, police staff, and reporters who became involved. The play does not contain scenes of the shooting or gunshots.

The play was directed by Ken McCulough, Professor of Theatre and head of FSCJ’s Theatre Performance Program at South Campus. He has held this position for the past twenty-five years; Repossessions is the fiftieth FSCJ production he has directed.

The stage in the Black Box theatre is divided into three sections with black backgrounds just a few feet away from the theatre’s first row. Furnishings are minimal.

On the morning of the shooting, James Edward Pough, age 42, entered the Baymeadows Way office of GMAC, a company which offered banking services that included car loans. The company had recently repossessed his automobile because of delinquent payment. He arrived armed and began shooting. During the two minutes or so he was in the building, he killed nine people, injured four, and then killed himself. As portrayed by Gabriel Pride of Phase Eight Theatre Company, Pough appears as a silent menacing presence in multiple scenes.

The play begins after the shooting, with an AP Reporter (Allen Melton) interviewing Pough’s sister Lydia (Chyna Posey) for background information about what might have triggered the massacre. Steve Weintraub (Gavin Buchanon) then portrays a local policeman gathering facts about the shooting. Religious implications were forcibly presented by the gregarious Pastor Jones (Kendric Harris) during a radio broadcast.

Alejandro Sanchez represented the GMAC office manager. The Baymeadows Way GMAC office was notable for having a high rate of repossession and a number of employees readily admitted that they frequently received threats of violence from customers in person and on the phone.

Paul, portrayed by David Castro was at work for five minutes when the shooter arrived. He and a woman named Cindy made for the rear doors to escape. Paul made it, she did not and he feels she died so he could live. His performance was emotional and moving.

One of the largest roles was that of Nancy, portrayed by Betsy Darnell, whom we have seen on stage several times at ABET in Neptune Beach. Nancy survived, even though she was shot multiple times by Pough as she kept shouting at him to stop. In her monologue, she believably related the devastating impact of the experience on her life.

Robert Highfill (Joseph Mercedes) was a former police officer whose wife was killed. He was not at the scene at the time of the incident, and described his efforts to find her body after it was removed from the building.

GMAC moved to another location after the shooting and some of the employees returned to work a week later.

There were fourteen characters and one understudy (Cameron Smithgall) in the play. The roles included included Pough’s neighbor (Taylor Wynn), Steve Weintraub, JSO, PIO (Gavin Buchanon), Lieutenant Firefighter (Adis Alic), Claudia (Erin Stephens), Lara (Autumn Franks) and an Electrical Worker (Devon Singletary).

The fourth wall was broken in Repossessions as most of the action and reflection was portrayed in monologues directed to the audience by this excellent cast. Most of the cast members weren’t even born when the shooting occurred in Baymeadows; the worst mass shooting in Florida up to that time. During 2000 – 2018, the citizens of our country have experienced 277 mass shooting events, with 884 killed and 1,500 injured or wounded.

The audience was so moved at the intermission and ending that applause was delayed as viewers reflected on the tragedy – and its relationship to current life – brought to life by Gilmore’s drama and the fine acting of the FSCJ Dramaworks students.

The production team included Tim Gilmore (Playwright), Ken McCulough (Director), Judelyn LuLu Dixon (Stage Manager), Brandon Gelinas (Sound Designer), Grace Guevarez (Properties Supervisor), The Costume Crew (Costume Design), Johnny Pettegrew (Scenic and Lighting Design), Bob Rupp (Scene Shop Supervisor), Carl Stokes (Poster Design), and Samuel Wachs & Nathaniel Wilson (Assistant Stage Managers).