It's not every day the Hennepin County Attorney sounds more like an arts patron than a prosecutor as he promotes an upcoming play.
"It's about young people. It's about bullying. It's about sexism. It's about taunting. And it's about gun violence," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said. "And it reaches out with live theater we hope will make a real difference with our youth when it comes to gun violence."
Freeman is commissioning the new play, which will be performed by Mixed Blood Theatre and will tour schools starting next week.
It's not the first time Freeman has commissioned a play. He did the same thing in the early '90s, when he realized adults weren't talking to young people enough about why they shouldn't carry guns. That production, called "GunPlay," was written by playwright Syl Jones.
Recently, Jones began writing a fresh script about gun violence. He says a lot has changed over the years. For one thing, the old play centered on three male characters.
"This year, we discovered that girls are playing an active part in bullying in schools. And we had some teachers tell us girls are worse than boys," Jones said.
In the new production, "Stars and Stripes," the main character is a girl bully and two male friends.
The three are inside a video game that encourages and rewards violent behavior. In one scene, there's a shooting in the neighborhood. One boy says he saw what happened, but the bully, Maria, and their friend Nathan, convince him to stay quiet.
In another scene, the characters use Facebook posts and texts to spread the word about a girl who was raped.
Jones said the county attorney's office reviewed the show and debated what belonged in the production.
"There was concern about what people thought were over-sexualization of things. But these were older people talking. When we talked to younger people, they thought it was normal. The county attorney's office gave in on some things, and didn't give in on others."
The play's production cost about $50,000. Freeman's office used money from drug forfeitures. The county attorney said it was cash well spent.
The play will visit schools around Hennepin County beginning Monday for two weeks.