The Ones, a.k.a. (Be)longing, a.k.a. Trigger

Hip-Hop Oratorio
music theater forum for local participants (community members, singers, beatboxers)

The Ones—a.k.a Trigger or (Be)longing—is a music theater forum about coming of age in an age of guns. Created by composer Byron Au Yong and writer Aaron Jafferis, the project was prompted by the April 16th Tragedy at Virginia Tech, where a Korean-American student shot 49 people, killing 32, then himself. College students, faculty, staff, and local leaders form the backbone of this performance where mental health, music, neuroscience, sociology, and theatre intersect.

Developmental residencies culminated in performances and events leading up to the 10-year memorial in 2017. The libretto has been revised since the 2017 performances and is available for performances in 2019 and beyond.

November 15-16, 2019
Performance Reading
Lisa Peterson, director
Alex Ratner, music director
New York University

In Spring and Fall 2019, Au Yong and Dr. Erin Grinshteyn co-teach Gun Violence, Music, and Youth in the Honors College at the University of San Francisco.

Radio Interview

Program Notes
School shootings are a challenging subject. Debates ping pong around gun control, the second amendment and civil liberties. The Ones broadens themes surrounding shootings in America by incorporating the perspectives of people who work and study in university settings with a responsive theatrical choral project. Voices both murmur and soar in a project about belonging and isolation. With listening and empathy as core experiences of this musical work, The Ones encourages, rather than silences, numerous voices.

This staged choral work serves as a touchstone for Trigger Community: thematically-related artistic, scholarly, technology, and other resources developed by local groups. Individuals and organizations are invited to think about forgiveness and justice, freedom and safety, as well as other themes related to education, guns, race, and other topics sparked by The Ones. Individuals from campus clubs, civic organizations and audience members converse through the creation of art as strategies to prevent school shootings.

Trigger Community brings audiences, experts and performers together in artistic spaces of imagination and impact as active negotiators in topics that have divided Americans, such as second amendment rights and mental health profiling. Both the core performance of The Ones and related events to broaden and deepen themes to build communities to end violence.

The Ones (titled (Be)longing at Virginia Tech and the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, and Trigger at MDC Live Arts) is the second work in a trilogy of music theatre works about what Americans fear, by composer Byron Au Yong and librettist Aaron Jafferis. The first is Stuck Elevator. The third is Activist Songbook.

The Ones is scored for singers, rappers and beat boxers who play stones. With an auditioned cast chosen from the local community, the creative team guides participating musicians to collaborate on a performance specific to the host venue. Additional instrumentation can be arranged according to the talents of the cast.

Creative Team
Byron Au Yong, composer
Aaron Jafferis, writer

2019 Version in development
Lisa Peterson, director
Alex Ratner, music director

2017 Version
Charlotte Brathwaite, director
Ni'Ja Whitson, choreographer
Ben Zamora, design

March 2017 Moss Arts Center · Virginia Tech
April 2017 MDC Live Arts · Miami Dade College
June 2017 International Festival of Arts & Ideas · New Haven
April 2018 Deeper Change Forum (excerpts) · Hamden
November 2019 NYU Reading · New York

Thomas O. Kriegsmann, producer
+1 (917) 386-5468
tommy (at)

Arts & Ideas Interview

Trigger Trailer from MDC Live Arts

Virginia Tech Trailer

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

Learning Guide
Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech

2014 Research & Writing Residencies
2015 Community Development Residencies
2016 Production Residencies
2017-present Performances & Touring

2019 New Studio on Broadway and Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program at NYU
2017-2018 Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Residency
2014-2017 Virginia Tech Center for the Arts Research and Writing Residencies
2014-2017 International Festival of Arts & Ideas Research and Writing residencies
2016-2017 Montalvo Arts Center Lucas Artists Residency
2016 Theatreworks Silicon Valley Writing Retreat
2016 The Flea Theater Workshop
2016 Westminster Choir College Writing and Teaching Residency
2015 Weston Playhouse Writing Retreat
2014 Sundance Institute Theatre Lab at MASS MoCA Writing Residency

The Ones (a.k.a. (Be)longing or Trigger), is an ArKtype project, commissioned and co-produced by Moss Arts Center, Blacksburg, VA and the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, New Haven, CT.

(Be)longing is a commission of the Moss Arts Center and developed in partnership with International Festival of Arts & Ideas. Residency development provided by The Flea Theater, Millay Artist Colony, Montalvo Arts Center, Sundance Institute Theatre Lab, Theatreworks Silicon Valley, Westminster Choir College, and Weston Playhouse.

The Ones was developed as part of a workshop with New Studio on Broadway and Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program at NYU.
Trigger was developed, in part, at the 2014 Sundance Institute Theatre Lab at MASS MoCA.

Special thanks to all the community members, performers, presenters, and supporters from developmental workshop residencies and performances including but not limited to Liz Fisher, Chad Herzog, Missy Huber, Doug Harry and the amazing staff of Arts & Ideas, Kathryn Garcia, Jennifer Person, Eddy  Davis and the MDC Live Arts team, Ruth Waalkes, Jon Catherwood-Ginn, Sara Bailey and the Moss Arts  Center Team, Stephanie Bleyer, Laura Chen-Schultz, Ed Iskandar, Robbie Harris, Eric Hung, Will MacAdams, Erika Meitner, Ali Neff, Janice Paran, Karen Shimakawa, Jack Tchen, Eric Ting, Niegel Smith, Mary Lou Aleskie, Shanta Thake, David Dower, Emily Theys, Sara Juli and Surala Consulting, Holly and John Lesko, Naphtali Fields, Scott Bailey, Bob Leonard, Jim Hawdon, Andy Morikawa, Tricia Smith, Debbie Day, Ellie Sturgis, Chris Flynn, Miles Le, Alan Davis; Joe, Mona, and Randa Samaha; Tom Brown, Nikki Giovanni, Jake Grohs, Conversation NRV, Community Voices, Maj. Gene Deisinger, Leighton Vila, Expressions, Students for Non-Violence, Erika Meitner, Ali Neff, Shannon M. Turner, Patty Raun, Chief Anthony Wilson, Melissa Ripepi, Francine Dulong, Tracy Vosburgh, Susanna Rinehart, Larry Hincker, Kwame Harrison, Jenie Nguyen, Craig Arthur, Caroline Davis, David Salmo, Nancy Alexander, Jason Hiruo, Liz Hammond, Rafael Ramos, Kristin Kelly, Thomas Murray, Cathy Edwards, Quita Sullivan, Craig Peterson, Baba Israel, and David Kim

Follow activity at future sites across the United States, learn about local and national initiatives, action steps, and more at

Thomas O. Kriegsmann, producer
+1 (917) 386-5468
tommy (at)