North Texas Daily

“Columbinus” play discusses aftermath of shootings

“Columbinus” play discusses aftermath of shootings

February 07
23:04 2013

Trent Johnson

Senior Staff Writer


In a dark performance room, a group of eight students wear white shirts, each with a word identifying common stereotypes — loner, freak, advanced placement, rebel, faith, perfect, prep and jock.

Each represents a character in the student performance “Columbinus,” an adaptation of an off-Broadway play of the same name first performed in 2005. The presentation attempts to show the events and aftermath involved with the Columbine High School shooting in 1999.

“The thing that makes this play interesting is that we’re dealing with actual police phone calls and actual dialogue from the basement tapes the killers made,” said Matthew “Jake” McCready, student director and theatre arts junior. “More than 80 percent of the script that we use is all real.”

McCready lived in Littleton, Colo., the site of the Columbine shootings, for six months shortly after the incident. He has always been supremely interested in the story he said. During high school, he discovered the play and immediately wanted to re-create it with students, but school officials deemed the subject too sensitive.

“This is a first-stage production,” McCready said. “So it’s for a class. It’s technically considered a project.”

The main idea of the play is to give a different perspective on the shooter’s lives leading up to the tragic slayings, but in no way commends or glorifies them, McCready said. It instead attempts to focus on the real issues such as gun control, mental illness and the media involving coverage of repeated mass shootings.

“This is a play about what is currently happening,” McCready said. “The two shooters in these basement tapes said they would kick start a revolution while others would say why? Clearly that’s what’s happening.”

McCready pitched the play last January to a group of professors and has worked with his actors for a few months. Sally Vahle, McCready’s faculty advisor and theater professor, has been impressed with the performance and expects it is a hot topic around campus.

“I think it’s really terrific,” Vahle said. “Our impression of these events is instantly shaped by how it’s presented by the media right out of the gate. Rarely do we have an opportunity to investigate the how and why.”

Actors were also drawn to the play because of all the recent shootings, theatre arts senior Austin Struckmeyer said, who plays shooter Eric Harris.

With certain parts requiring actors to recreate horrible events, the process required participants to step out of their comfort zones while learning about themselves in the process.

“It just kind of reaffirmed my belief that there’s darkness in all of us,” Struckmeyer said. “The only thing that distinguishes us from doing these things is the ultimate decision to not do it.”

“Columbinus” debuted last night in the Radio, TV, Film and Performing Arts building. The group will also perform at 7:30 p.m. tonight and Saturday in room 127.
Admission is free but seating is limited.

At the height of the play, one of the gunmen played by RTVF senior Nick Canon holds a gun to one of his peers’ head, played by theater arts junior Meagan Hicks. Her character, “Faith,” is one of few allowed to escape the shooting. Photo by Aimee Pass/Intern

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