Football holds a special place in America’s collective heart, but the injuries to the brain suffered by its best players have left many people wondering how the dangers can be reduced while keeping our love for the game vibrant.
A new play, commissioned by the Berkeley Rep Theater in California and now playing at the Head Theater of Center Stage in Baltimore through December 20, probes those questions and concerns, felt by participants and their families at all levels of the game today.
Entitled X’s and O’s (A Football Love Story), the play was written by KJ Sanchez and Jenny Mercein and stars six actors who play multiple roles. The two playwrights interviewed NFL players, their wives, and so on, and after transcribing the interviews and talking about them, conducted a short workshop at Center Stage.
“After every rehearsal, Jenny and I would go back to our apartment and we literally chopped up the script that I had at that time and laid it out on the floor and moved things around and talked about structure,” Ms Sanchez was quoted as saying in the program booklet. “That workshop was incredibly helpful.”
If you find yourself frequenting theaters more than football stadiums, there’s even a helpful guide about football, which will explain all the vocabulary words you might need to know when watching X’s and O’s. I wish Shakespeare came with one of those.
Earlier this evening, a brief but thought-provoking discussion entitled “Positive Community Impacts of Football” was held in the theater after the play. Part of Center Stage’s educational component, the discussion made people think about concussions in NFL football but also to reflect on the role the sport plays in our lives.
In combining sessions like this with the play itself, Center Stage engages the audience about brain injuries but doesn’t depress them enough to think we’ll have to give up football. In fact, that would be the furthest thing from the playwrights’ minds.
“I would say a goal of this piece is for our audience to leave the play asking those questions,” Ms Marcein said when asked what she thought might happen to football over the next 10 or 15 years. “But we don’t have a crystal ball. I can speak personally and say that I can’t imagine a world without football. I can’t imagine fall weather without football. I can’t imagine a time when there wouldn’t be that background hum on a Sunday of a TV playing the game. But it’s changing. It’s already changed, and it will continue to change and evolve.”
Despite the danger, football still brings excitement to the lives of many players and fans. Plus, it is, by far, the best attended athletic activity in our high schools.
“Whether it’s in front of a TV watching as a family or going to a Friday night high school game or tailgating before a big game—I think that sense of being part of a community I will always love and I will always want to participate in,” Ms Marcein said.
Performances at the Head Theater, 700 North Calvert Street, run through December 20 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 PM, Thursdays at 7 PM, and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 PM, with Sunday evening performances at 7:30. Ticket prices range from $10 to $59. For more information, call (410) 986-4013.
Other post-show discussions include “Life after the NFL” with Doug Nettles on December 6, “Traumatic Brain Injury and Medical Developments” on December 10, and “Youth Football, Race, Technology and the Future of Football” on December 17.