Metro police officer/playwright brings real life plays to save lives
R. Byron Stringer has earned a reputation as one of Las Vegas’ most prolific local playwrights, the creative force behind a number of entertaining plays that also stimulate self-discovery.
“The common thread in all of my stage productions — which are now about 10 or so — are hope, redemption and inspiration,” said the preacher’s son, a native of San Bernardino, Calif.
Stringer divides his time between theatrical pursuits and serving as an officer in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. “I just received my 25-year pin,” he said, “and I am actually assigned to the youth and educational department with Metro that is better known as the DARE Program. As a DARE officer I go into classrooms and teach children about drug prevention.”
He acknowledges that working on the Metro police force — and coming into regular contact with many of the ills that plague our communities, particularly as they relate to children — has influenced his work. In fact, those experiences are the direct inspiration behind his latest production, “Toe Tag Monologues.”
“You know, police officers are always the first to respond to a murder and the last ones to leave the crime scene,” he said. “Generally, one of the last people to show up at the scene of a murder is the coroner. He is the one who puts the toe tag on a dead body. A toe tag is symbolic of the negative choices that are made by some people. It is also very symbolic of dead people. I (adapted) the ‘Toe Tag Monologues’ … from real stories given to me by children who have made bad choices in their lives. It is the goal of the production to explain to children who are getting into trouble that they are wearing a toe tag every day. They might be walking around and breathing, but if they are choosing a life of drugs, crime or prostitution, they are wearing their toe tag. It is demonstrated that if those same children take their toe tags off, they can move on with their lives. A toe tag is a weight.”
With the “Toe Tag Monologues” having been well-received by the community, Stringer is most proud of where many of those performance have been staged: on the housing side of juvenile detention facilities, an area not typically frequented by police officers who drop off new juvenile offenders.
“For a police officer to go inside the juvenile detention facility’s housing side had been unheard of,” he said. “It is customary that the youths are just dropped off to the detention facility, and the police officer would leave. I take my workshops and the ‘Toe Tag Monologues’ inside the housing side of the juvenile detention facility to see the children, and to give them some solutions … and the children really receive the messages for self-improvement.”
He added: “I think our children are definitely dying and they are screaming for our help. They use sometimes disturbing tools to get our attention — such as disruptive music, sagging pants or mischievous ways. They are screaming for our help, and sometimes we turn a deaf ear to it, instead of listening to what the problems are. We just say, ‘Stop listening to that music! Pull up your pants and stay in school!’ It is important for us to listen to them. I think they are angry because our generation is not listening to our youth. We are not taking the time to hear what their issues are.
“How do you expect a child to get good grades in school when they just came from a home where daddy was … beating mama? Or mama had been out all night tricking and using drugs. The list goes on for some of our children. We all have heard the phrase, that ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’ but we must realize that the village also includes the children. We fail to ask the children, ‘What is it that you need?’ The reason the ‘Toe Tag Monologues’ work with the children is because the children see themselves in the portrayals and solutions to make their lives better. They see the mirror of themselves and then the conversation begins.”