PITTSBURG — Pittsburg High School’s Rep Theatre class will shed light on a national social issue with its latest performance.

For 11 years, the department has premiered original plays centered on timely social topics from professional playwright Debbie Lamedman. Previous shows discussed school violence, eating disorders, climate change, bullying, dating violence and depression.

Titled “The Chasm Between Us: A close examination of bias, hate and discrimination in America,” this year’s production will begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Memorial Auditorium at 503 North Pine St. under the direction of PHS theater teacher Greg Shaw. Admission is free.

After the 45-minute production, the cast and community members will conduct a “talk-back” session with audience members, who may ask the cast or the director questions.

“Gender bias and sexual orientation has become a lot more prevalent,” Shaw said. “We have students who are experiencing some of these difficulties and are figuring out where they fit in this world, so it’s really important for us to make sure our kids are open to the conversations.”

Shaw said neither he nor his students claim to be experts on these topics.

“We are really just trying to start a conversation and with that conversation we think only positive things will happen,” he said. “Every year we’ve done one of these shows, we know firsthand that those conversations are starting because we’ve had students come up to these kids and ask questions.”

The director discussed some of the self reflection that his students experience through their work with this production.

“This is a theater group and they are a group that may be a positive or a negative toward another group in this school,” Shaw said. “They do have to acknowledge ‘OK, I may be guilty of some of these things, but through these discussions and my education, I can correct that going forward.’”

As a teacher, Shaw emphasized theater’s power to entertain as well as educate.

“This style and this venue is a very powerful platform,” he said. “Kids need to know their voice can be heard through the art of theater, and that is 100 percent what this is about.”

 — Brandon Schmitz is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be reached at bschmitz@morningsun.net.