Dozens of people packed a TCU lecture hall Wednesday for the first staged reading of a play inspired by the murder of Botham Jean.
It has been almost six months since the world watched the murder trial of Amber Guyger, the fired Dallas police officer, who was found guilty of murdering Jean, her neighbor, in his own apartment.
Now, a new play, inspired by the trial, was ready for a staged reading. TCU theater professor, Ayvaunn Penn, wrote the play “For Bo: A Play Inspired by the Murder of Botham Jean by Officer Amber Guyger.”
“This play allows us to examine the events that transpired through the lens of art and in doing that, let us look at this without having to look directly into the sun,” Penn said. “It was gruesome, and it was a lot. Throughout my life, writing has been a way of coping.”
Freshman Nijel Smith played the role of Bo Jones who is the fictional parallel of Botham Jean.
“It definitely is the first role that I've had that has had this much weight,” Smith said. “I wanted to make sure that I encompassed myself in the role and also the essence of what he stood for and what he believed in.”
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The one-hour play followed the trial, the aftermath with flashbacks to the night Amber Guyger and Botham Jean’s paths crossed.
Penn remembers the moment she knew this was a project she wanted to work on.
“The moment Judge Kemp said ‘why are the people locked out? This is the people’s court. Let them come inside,’” Penn said “Through this play, the doors of the court will be opened.”
The play was described as tragic, inspirational emotional and thought-provoking.
Among the most important aspects of the play are the conversations that will happen after it. After the reading, a panel of campus and community leaders joined the cast for a discussion about cross-cultural understanding.
“To make sure that the conversations about the issues that led to his death don’t die with him,” Penn said. “Through conversation comes action and then change.”