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2023 KHS graduate has original play recognized nationally

Niarra C. Bell, a 2023 graduate of Kecoughtan High School and the Performing Arts Academy, has had her play, The Smiles Behind, selected to be showcased in the national ENOUGH! campaign with a staged reading at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. on November 6, 2023. Niarra’s is one of six plays from across the country that was selected to be showcased.

ENOUGH! is making these plays available for free as part of their Nationwide Reading on November 6. Schools, theaters, and community organizations of all sizes are invited to stage a reading of the plays locally. Producers of these regional readings are encouraged to use the event as an opportunity to seek out meaningful partnerships and pair the plays with a community engagement component that addresses the realities of gun violence specific to their area. 

“The quality of this year's submissions was truly impressive, in terms of artistic quality as well as the diversity of stories and communities represented,” shared David Henry Hwang, playwright and ENOUGH panelist. “These exciting and inspiring young dramatists show us once again that our nation needs their voices to say ENOUGH! to the plague of gun violence.”

The premise of The Smiles Behind: 

What if a single conversation could stop tragedy in its tracks? A young girl risks everything to put that to the test as she confronts the police officer attempting to chase down her beloved brother.

Niarra has an intense passion for the performing arts and has experience in acting, directing, and backstage technical work. She hopes that her play will help bring a different perspective on gun violence to her community as she has seen the problem worsen in recent years. She believes that, even if her play reaches only one person, she has helped the movement against gun violence. 

Niarra said that she would like to thank her teacher and mentor Mrs. Tracy Bourne as she is the one who encouraged her to write and submit The Smiles Behind to the ENOUGH! contest. She is extremely grateful for this opportunity and the experience. The Smiles Behind is Niarra’s playwriting debut.