David Washington an activist poet, nicknamed Moon because he “glows” when he raps
Bishop James Washington III head of L.A.’s most successful Black Baptist church
Eleo Ramirez he can’t hear and doesn’t speak, but Eleo paints the pain he still feels from the drive-by shooting that killed his mother and sister
Rosanna Eleo’s grandmother and the oldest to join a gang for protection
Eartha Dolphin nicknamed Dancin’ Snack for her breaking moves
Abe Jones the high school basketball star, Slick hopes his skills can take him to the pros
Jimmy aka The Collector; a hate-filled gang member raised in an abusive family
Officer Hodges a white cop who relocated to L.A. for the sunshine
Ms. Belinda a music and voice teacher and a champion for the kids of her community
DA NI the smartest and most loved kid in the neighborhood
So, What's Going On?
A robbery. A police chase. Shots fired. A fateful case of mistaken identity. And a weary Los Angeles neighborhood is left once again to figure out what’s happening to its young people and why. That lays down the framework for Freeze Frame…Stop the Madness, a performance based on true stories and told in a fusion of drama, music, dance, video, and art.
The show opens with a gang member taking down a convenience store and killing the owner. The police pursue the suspect into a jamming dance party in a nearby park where a cop takes aim— and all action freezes. The story then flashes back in time to explore the people and the place, and the threads that lead to that tragic night.
The backstory unfolds in a collage of overlapping characters and cross-cutting relationships:
- There is David Washington, a young, socially conscious MC (“Master of Ceremonies”) caught in a battle of generational wills with his father, the bishop of a huge Baptist Church, a church he wants his son to take over.
- The world is silent to Eleo and he is silent in return, telling his stories in paint. Meanwhile his fierce, yet fearful, former gangster Grandmother Rosanna tries to protect him from gangland troubles.
- There is Slick, hoping to use his basketball wizardry as a fast break to a better life.
- Eartha is the neighborhood dance prodigy who breaks hearts with her breaking, but who is also battling to break free of self-doubt related to her drug-addicted mother.
- A Chicago-born police officer, Officer Hodges, a white man overwhelmed by the combative relationship between this community and duties of his badge.
- Then there are the squads of teens and pre-teens—including “Little Man” DA NI, Kayla, and Ali—who love and fun on each other, filling the neighborhood with young life.
These bonds pull apart and come together as friends and family navigate their L.A. neighborhood, a community filled with love and creativity but also weighed down with gun and gang violence. At one point, youth gather to hear the story of the African American journey that is born into who they are. At another, community elders come together in a kind of revival meeting to debate the pros and cons of gun control and guns, struggling to find meaning and causes and solutions to problems that are leaving young people lost or dead.
The play winds its way back to its freeze-frame beginnings. Officer Hodges aims his weapon, shoots, and…
Once again, the community comes together to witness another moment of loss.
Check This Out...
How different styles of dance reveal characters and what’s going on inside their hearts and heads. What gestures and steps signal love, optimism, and hope? What moves indicate despair, anger, and violence?
What different genres of music are used—Hip Hop, gospel, soul, rhythm and blues, reggae, and others—and when. What do the different styles communicate about a scene and the characters?
How action spills over from video scenes on the big screen onto the stage creating an interplay between video and live action.
How the production uses sound and visual effects—sirens, searchlights, helicopters, and graffiti writing, etc.—to create a multisensory experience. Also, watch for ways effects create different settings, like the church, homes, the park, a basketball court.
How the performance uses freeze frames. A “freeze frame” is a film and video technique where the action stops so the image looks like a still photo. It gives the audience a longer look at a detail or emphasizes the emotional impact of a scene. Watch for freeze frames on-screen and onstage. When are they used? What are they trying to capture or communicate? Why is the show called Freeze Frame... Stop the Madness?
Think About This...
Think about how the different generations are portrayed in the show. Where do the older folks find support and comfort? Where do the children and teens find comfort and joy? When and why do the different generations struggle to connect and communicate with each other?
One vocal refrain in a song goes: They don’t even know our name / Gonna take us out just the same. What role do names and identity play as a theme in the show? How does knowing someone’s name change how you relate to them?
Bullying shows up in different forms during the performance. One theory about bullying is that when people love themselves, they don’t want to hurt others. But when people hate themselves, they want others to suffer. How does this idea apply to the play? How do people deal with bullying? How can friends and allies help targets of bullying reclaim their power?
At one point, community members have a meeting, “The Stop the Madness Conversation about Gun Violence in America.” Listen to the pro/con positions about guns and gun control shared by the people there. Which side do you lean toward? Can you sum up the other side’s position in an unbiased way?
Take Action: Reach Out
Which character or characters do you identify with most strongly in the performance? What about them helps you connect to the play? Which characters annoy or upset you? What about them triggers your dislike?
Relating and relationships are at the heart of Freeze Frame…Stop the Madness. Damage happens when connections break down, people circle each other with suspicion, or someone feels neglected and rejected by family and community.
What specific actions do you take to build or maintain a friendship? How do you act when you want to show someone you don’t like them? These are questions we rarely consider, yet they can change the way we treat one another.
If you have it in your heart, reach across some distance and introduce yourself to someone you haven’t met or don’t know well. With her or his permission, snap a selfie of the two of you.
With his or her permission post it to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat, or another platform of your choice. Go with first names only and use #madeanewfriend as your hashtag.
N00b Guide to Hip Hop
Hip Hop, Huh?
Sometimes a theater piece can draw much of its soul from the Hip Hop universe. Hip Hop is more than a beat, more than rapid-fire lyrics, more than an athletic style of dance, and more than the sum of those art forms. It is a way of experiencing and interpreting the world—a culture, in other words.
Want to know more about theater and the background and living elements of Hip Hop? Want to shine a light onto any preconceptions about an artistic and cultural movement that rose from the ashes of The Bronx to take root around the globe? Visit our Related Resources (to the right of this page)
Nerd Guide to Hip Hop
(If you’re new to Hip Hop, jump on over to the n00b Guide.)
Already a citizen of Hip Hop? Check in here.
Can you talk about the Hip Hop history of DJ Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash until the sun comes up? If so, here are suggestions for next steps:
- Watch and connect. Nothing takes the place of seeing an art form live and in person. See as many live theatrical and/or Hip Hop performances as you can. See what connects to your passion, interests, and skills.
- Take classes or join a club. Breaking and African Dance have become dance studio staples. Open mic nights and slam poetry clubs are where many MCs first reveal their rhyme and rhythm. If you’re a young writer looking for a portal for support, you can’t do better than Youth Speaks.
- Go camping. You can make friends while developing your style. Theater and Hip Hop arts camps are springing up wherever there’s a sound system and a dance floor. Set your web search to your state, then add Summer Camp and add Hip Hop or Theater.
For more in-depth information on Hip Hop as an art form, try these links:
Hip Hop Today
A clearinghouse of current Hip Hop news and reviews.
Hip Hop Studies
Interested in going deep, deeper, deepest into analyzing Hip Hop and its complexities? Hip Hop Studies is now serious scholarship, and this journal is a graduate-level course.
Or visit our Related Resource (to the right of this page)
Parents and Teachers: We've Got You Covered
Columbine. Virginia Tech. Sandy Hook. Charleston. San Bernardino. Orlando. Dallas. You will hear these place names mentioned and sung more than once in the show. They were all sites of mass shootings that left dozens of innocent people dead.
Guns, gun violence, and gun control in the United States are core issues in Freeze Frame…Stop the Madness. In many parts of the United States, they are among the most controversial topics to bring up. Most debates or online forums on the subject end with no minds changed and everybody angry.
Introducing Debbie Allen
As writer, choreographer, and director, Debbie Allen is the whirlwind creative force behind Freeze Frame…Stop the Madness. She is a three-time Emmy® Award-winner who was appointed by President George W. Bush as a Cultural Ambassador of Dance for the U.S. As a choreographer and teacher, she has taught the beauty and potency of dance to thousands of youth at Debbie Allen Dance Academy in Los Angeles.
This performance, though, is closest to her heart, she says, after years of watching futilely as youth, especially African American and Latino youth, die in an ongoing epidemic of gang and gun violence. “It’s like all these souls keep speaking to me and it’s like we’ve got to do something about it,” Allen told The Hollywood Reporter about victims of gun violence she has known and heard about over the years. “Yeah, people should be able to have guns. But let’s do it in a safe way. Let’s be reasonable and let’s give some more education and opportunity, and help people that are in need who become desperate.”
You’re ready to see Freeze Frame…Stop the Madness.