Advocacy Through the Arts


People use guns but, in a sense, guns use people too. When we have the technology for violence easily to hand, our choices are skewed and we are more vulnerable to being manipulated into violent action.
Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

We hope you were able to join us at the
40th Street Stage
for the World Premiere of

Hearts Full of Tears

A play by Bill Jenkins

PosterThis is a true story: On August 12, 1997, 16 year old William Jenkins was shot to death by a robber using an illegally obtained handgun. It was Will's second day at the his first 'real' job at a local fast food restaurant. It happened in Richmond, Virginia where Will's dad, Bill Jenkins, was a theatre professor and scenic designer. In the aftermath of this senseless and sudden tragedy, Bill Jenkins struggled to cope with his family's devastating loss. Looking for answers, he soon came to realize that little existed to help families deal with "what happens after the police leave'. Bill went on to write a comprehensive, much needed guide to dealing with the trauma of sudden loss. What to Do When the Police Leave is now in its third printing, and has become an important and celebrated book. From the Foreword, by Patricia Cornwell: "Important and crafted of compassion and love at great sacrifice. Mr. Jenkins' book is a magnificent gift. It is for all of us."

But Bill Jenkins is an artist - a theatre artist. In 2003, he began a playscript that would allow him to work through his ongoing grief and new-found insight, as he continues to work with grieving families around the country. The first draft of his play, Hearts Full of Tears, had a staged reading in the fall of 2003.

The script, which has never been fully produced, was brought to the attention of 40th Street Stage by friends of Bill's at The Virginia Center for Public Safety, a group which advocates an end to handgun violence. Looking to promote their message through an artistic medium, they contacted 40th Street Stage last year and suggested a partnership - if a suitable project could be found. A former co-worker knew of Bill's script and contacted him in Chicago, where he now resides and teaches at Dominican University.

Hearts Full of Tears is the story of a couple whose son, Davy, is murdered. Jo and George struggle to deal with their feelings of loss; with a future now so suddenly altered; with their friends inability to articulate their own sadness. "This play has moments of heartbreaking truth and honesty - moments and sentiments that are as profound and real as any thing I have ever worked on in the theatre" says director Frankie Little Hardin. "Bill has already made one trip down from Chicago to work with the cast and I to clarify and strengthen the script. His courage, in being willing to work on this piece and craft it into a beautiful piece of theatre, is just profoundly humbling for all of us." The cast includes Beth Pivirotto (The Greater Love), Nick Ventura (West Side Story), Bill Armstrong, Dave Olson, Carol Wright, Eileen P. Quinton, and Chris Manitius.

What: The World Premiere of Hearts Full of Tears
A play by Bill Jenkins
Where: 40th Street Stage, 809 W. 40th Street in Norfolk
When: May 29 - June 20 2009



About Bill Jenkins

William Jenkins was on his second day of work at a fast-food restaurant when the Richmond, Va., establishment was robbed at closing time. While cooperating fully with the robber, William, 16, was shot and died instantly. His father, Bill Jenkins, quickly found that there were virtually no readily available resources to answer his questions as a survivor of a traumatic loss.

Bill found some help scattered in bookstores, on the Internet, and in support groups and agencies. But there was no single, practical and useful resource written by victims for victims containing the advice Bookand guidance that he and his family needed following their loss.

Using the information he had collected, he wrote What to do When the Police Leave: A Guide to the First Days of Traumatic Loss, which has quickly become an important resource for families dealing with the sudden or traumatic death of a loved one.

Bill gives workshops on various victims’ issues for the National Organization for Victim Assistance; the Compassionate Friends; Fight Crime: Invest in Kids; and Parents of Murdered Children. He serves on the Cook County Juvenile Probation Department’s Victim Advisory board and is also an instructor with the Virginia Institute of Forensic Science and Medicine training officials who work with victims of crime. His goal is to help reduce crime by providing hope and resources at the critical stages of life for those who so desperately need them.

In contrast, the death penalty "brings neither peace nor healing to the injured parties and the resulting upheaval and re-victimization at all levels of its implementation has far graver consequences than are ever brought to light," he says.

Bill believes that as a society we are at a point “where a decision must be made. Do we perpetuate a system of punishment that is of questionable social value and can never be perfected, or do we remove its traumatizing impact from our criminal justice system altogether? The answer will in large measure define who we are as a people.” He has joined MVFHR because its dual focus on victims and human rights is “uniquely suited to answering this question.”

A professional artist and educator at the college level for more than 15 years, Bill teaches and designs for the theatre program at Dominican University near Chicago.