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The Ones

​Music by Byron Au Yong

Libretto by Aaron Jafferis

Load singers and rappers into a chamber of music. Squeeze young people into a conversation about guns. Trigger action.


Emerging from three years of interviews in communities nationwide affected by youth-involved shootings, The Ones is a choral/hip-hop musical about coming of age in an age of guns.


A choir gathers, imagining a world where young people don’t die. Two students search for the roots of a school shooting. As they – and the audience – become implicated in the search, the question moves from how did this happen, to what do we do now?

The Ones is a forum, a tool to invite communities to reflect and connect. The musical becomes the heart of a series of invitations for cast and audience engagement. A local cast performs the core music theatre work; local communities create thematically-linked events, classes, panels, and artistic responses in consultation with the creative team; audiences reflect, create, share stories, and mobilize during the show.


The Ones is scored for singers, rappers, beatboxers, and stones. Listen to NYU Tisch New Studio students sing in a 2019 developmental workshop directed by Lisa Peterson, music directed by Alex Ratner.


The Ones is scored for human voice and stones. Minimum cast size is 10, plus one human beatboxer. The choir can include dozens, hundreds, or thousands of people. Multigenerational casting is encouraged (i.e. casting staff and parents), even in student-centered productions.


Residencies, workshops and events connect the premiere at Virginia Tech with subsequent engagements in colleges and cities nationwide – seeding ways for each The Ones site to learn from others’ experience with trauma, healing, and strategies to prevent youth-involved shootings.


​At the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, community events before, during and after the show included a student-run town hall meeting about young people and guns, a workshop with CT Center for Nonviolence, an interactive sculpture, student choreography and plays, and the creation of a stone labyrinth.


in New Haven, the work was directed by Charlotte Brathwaite, choreographed by Ni'Ja Whitson, designed by Ben Zamora, and music directed by Stephanie Tubiolo.


At Miami-Dade College and MDC Live Arts, the work was called Trigger; the show's songs triggered student-created plays and songs performed alongside parts of the core oratorio. The Miami version was directed by Charlotte Brathwaite, choreographed by Ni'Ja Whitson, designed by Ben Zamora, and music directed by Oscar Bustillo.


The Ones began as the oratorio (Be)longing at the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech, which commissioned the work to be performed as part of the 10-year memorial of the April 16, 2007 tragedy there. The community process in Blacksburg led to everything from story circles to semester-long classes. (Be)longing was directed by Charlotte Brathwaite, choreographed by Ni'Ja Whitson, designed by Ben Zamora, and music directed by Nancy Harder.

Susan Bland. Premiere of Choral and Hip-Hop Theatre Forum (Be)longing. Virginia Tech Daily
Robbie Harris. 10 Years After Virginia Tech Shooting. NPR Weekend Edition
Robbie Harris. New Theater Piece Explores Gun Violence. WVTF Public Radio
Kim Hutchinson. Arts Performances Explore Gun Violence. I'm Not Your Boring Newspaper
Connie Ogle. Hip Hop Musical Trigger. Miami Herald
Frank Rizzo. Taking Aim at Violence at International Festival. Zip06
Brian Slattery. Hip Hop Oratorio “(Be)longs” at Long Wharf. New Haven Independent
Montana Telman. Aaron Jafferis on (Be)longing. Arts & Ideas Festival Blog
Phillip Valys. Anti-gun-violence Musical Trigger Comes to Miami.
Amanda Plasencia. March to End Gun Violence at Miami-Dade College. NBC Miami

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