Signature in the Schools “295N” tackles a prominent issue


Signature in the Schools, put on by the Signature Theatre in Shirlington has been a student production based in Arlington for years. This year’s production held on March 7, called 295N, tackled the widespread topic of police brutality. The play overall received much praise throughout all points, even the more aggressive and straightforward scenes.

Signature in the schools recruits students for auditions from high schools all around the Arlington area. Each year the play produced relates to a topic being studied about humanities or history. This years play has tackled the topic of black lives matter and activism. The difference between these plays and others carried out throughout the year at Signature Theatre is that the characters are based off of the actors casted for the play. “Once the cast is set, we go through many group sessions and activities,” said senior Eliamani Ismail who played Lena in the show. “The directors use this time to get a better feel for the direction they would like the characters to go in, everything is based off of our personalities and how we can best portray these characters.”

The play is centered around 4 main characters who each portray their experience with identity, race and the black lives matter movement. Ismail’s character, Lena is a slam poet who finds herself between speaking out about the problem and being categorized as an angry black girl. She goes through the journey of finding others who were fine with having the race talk and finds her place in these current events going on around her. “I really loved playing Lena, she’s such an amazing and inspiring character, and I think she really portrays a situation that a lot of people are in. Everyone understands that there is a problem and it is close to home, but its hard trying to find your place in the situation and how to become a part of the resolution,” said Ismail.

The name 295N came from the highway leading from Arlington to Baltimore, I-295. The main incident portrayed in the play was the death of Freddie Gray, a Baltimore teen who died due to spinal cord injuries from police brutality. His story showed that this problem is not far from home, this is happening an hour away from Arlington and is a problem that needs to be addressed not ignored.

The general reception of the play was positive even in its more aggressive scenes. “The play had something to say, it wasn’t sweet, it wasn’t rapping it up in a bow, but by saying no justice no peace we are speaking the truth,” said Ismail. “If it doesn’t work out peacefully we are willing to fight and that’s not an easy statement to make in an area like Arlington.”