Growing up in northeastern Ohio, I have always had a general understanding of what happened in May of 1970 at Kent State. But learning of the tragedy in an academic setting after so much time has passed keeps it at a distance, sterilizes it from emotion. David Hassler was able to bring the story back to life using the voices of an entire community that was traumatized and still healing years after the events took place.
“Kent State was not just Kent State.” “There were lots of truths.” These are unscripted lines, spoken from the hearts of those who lived through it, and they give those of us who have to learn from a distance an idea of what it was like living inside a symbol of a movement. The confusion, bewilderment, anger, and sorrow all come through from new and different perspectives, and they join together in a chorus that sings the song of a community divided against itself, searching for answers and acceptance.
The lines of the play originate from the oral history collection courtesy of Kent State University, and I feel that the true expressions of individuals reliving their memories of those few days gives the dialogue more power. Hassler masterfully weaves the separate stories into a tapestry and creates a vision that speaks to our humanity: there are flashes of light and dark held up in stark contrast; people on both sides show the best and worst of all of us. Reading this play was an illuminating experience; both of the horrific events, and of the need to preserve our past along with the voices of those who lived it.
Claire Kandle, Local History Librarian