'The Ballad of George Zimmerman': A short play about the Trayvon Martin incident

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The recent fatal shooting of 18-year old Michael Brown by a Missouri policeman once again has people talking about the risks of being a young black man in America.

Artists — including the rapper J Cole and R&B singer Frank Ocean — are responding to that tragedy. In a way, the response from the creative community mirrors what happened following the confrontation that left Trayvon Martin dead in a 2012 incident in Florida..

Earlier this summer, L.A.'s Center Theater Group revisited the fatal clash between Martin and George Zimmerman in "Facing Our Truth: Ten Minute Plays on Trayvon, Race and Privilege." 

One of the plays is titled "The Ballad of George Zimmerman" — written by Dan O'Brien with the composer Quetzal Flores. O'Brien approached Flores about the idea of adding music to the story and trying to focus on how the enormity of these people's lives come down to one moment.

 "Music gives them an opportunity to embody it in a certain way," said Flores, who founded the activist L.A. band, Quetzal, 20 years ago. "It's sort of telling of the schizophrenic nature of who Zimmerman actually is." 

O'Brien said he was attracted to the project by the opportunity to address race and identity and how those constructs intersect in America.

"[The shooter's] name is George Zimmerman," O'Brien noted. "Which says to a lot of people one type of person. A lot of people didn't know he was Latino to some degree. So I wanted to explore something that was complex and full of irony and would make me doubt myself, just like the characters hopefully have to confront certain things about their identity as well." 

Flores believes it's impossible to not talk about race, class and gender, and this project was an outlet to tackle those issues.

"It's not a black-and-white issue anymore," Flores said. "I think it's really important for us to look more broadly at things and to be able to understand life in that way." 

"Facing Our Truth: Ten Minute Plays on Trayvon, Race and Privilege" was presented by L.A.'s Center Theater Group  with The New Black Fest of New York.  

With contributions from James Kim

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