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Writer of OKC Bombing Play Returns to City

Steve Gilroy
Playwright Steve Gilroy

Award-winning British playwright Steve Gilroy, who wrote “In the Middle of the West” to mark the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City federal building bombing, will return to the city to sign copies of his books at 5 p.m. Nov. 2 at Full Circle Bookstore.

Gilroy’s verbatim theatre-style play was performed by Oklahoma City University students in April 2015. At that time the project was titled “20th Anniversary Oklahoma City Bombing Project.”

Verbatim theatre is a form of documentary for the stage based on personal interviews and transcripts. Gilroy worked with OCU students and staff to conduct more than 35 interviews with family members of victims, survivors, local officials and first responders.

“The overwhelming message that comes from everybody interviewed for this project is the regeneration of the city as the background,” Gilroy said. “But I think in the end, it is about these very powerful individual stories that, when woven together, create a much bigger human story about recovery and redemption.”

Gilroy, a professor at Northumbria University – Newcastle in the United Kingdom, was commissioned to create the work due to his expertise in verbatim theatre.

“Often, during the verbatim process, interviewers have to work quite hard to coax stories from people. For this project, however, there was an incredible honesty that I haven’t seen before in any other project that I have done. People talked openly about their experience of the bombing; however, they also shared all sorts of different stories that say a lot about peoples’ ability to recover and their sense of humor. They find themselves over 20 years later when they are no longer defined by what’s happened and are able to open new chapters in their lives.”

Gilroy is now working to give every high school in Oklahoma access to the play by creating an educational package that includes scripts, a documentary made by OCU about the making of the play and a teacher’s resource pack. He will be running practical drama workshops in high schools in the city, demonstrating how the exploration of the play and the use of theatre techniques can deepen young people’s understanding of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing.

Former KWTV news anchor Jenifer Reynolds, who was featured in the play, has helped with the development of the project.

The play itself will be published this month and celebrated with the book launch event at Full Circle, located in 50 Penn Place. There will also be a professional performance of extracts of the play at the Lyric Theatre on Oct. 31. Gilroy’s previous works include the award-winning “Motherland,” which toured the UK in 2009 sharing the stories of women whose everyday lives were touched by the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also wrote “The Prize,” sharing the true stories of Olympic successes and coinciding with the London games in 2012. Visit his web page at northumbria.ac.uk for more information about his work.