MSU Theatre and Dance Opens 2014-2015 Season with "columbinus"

Sep 19, 2014

The docudrama "columbinus," which opens Missouri State University Theatre & Dance's new season, explores the "whys" of the Columbine High School mass killings.
Credit (Photo: Missouri State University Theatre and Dance)

On Tuesday morning, April 20, 1999, senior classmates Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold arrived at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, a Denver suburb. Armed with guns and home-made bombs, the pair proceeded to kill 12 fellow students and one teacher before killing themselves. In the days following this massacre that shocked the world, media coverage was full of the “Who, What, Where, When and How” of this horrific event, but the question “Why?” remains to this day. The documentary drama "columbinus" will open the 2014-2015 season of Missouri State University Tent Theatre. Sarah Wiggin directs the production, which will run in the Craig Hall Balcony Theatre Sept 19, 21-26 and 28 all at 7:30pm, and Sunday Sept.21 and 28 at 2:30pm.  In exploring that question of "why", the play weaves together courtroom testimony by survivors and witnesses; police evidence; interviews with students, parents, teachers and community members; and, most chilling of all, excerpts from the personal journals, emails and home videos of the shooters themselves.  "P.J. Paparelli and the American Theatre Project actually went to Littleton in the days, months and years that followed," says Sarah Wiggin, "to ask some of these questions. And then (they) talked to high school students from across the nation about their experiences."
     Act One features eight fictionalized, archetypal characters — Perfect, Jock, Rebel, Prep, Faith, AP (Advanced Placement), Loner and Freak — whose interactions reveal the often extreme social pressures and angst of American adolescent culture. In Act Two, Loner and Freak become Klebold and Harris, whose alienation, rage and twisted thinking erupt in violence.  "They put together sort of a composite of the American high school experience (from all the interviews they conducted), and not just with students in Colorado but across the country," according to Sarah Wiggin.
     MSU student Andrew Gordon plays the "Loner" in act one, who becomes Dylan Klebold in the play's second act. Andrew describes the Loner/Dylan as "someone that lacks confidence... really a normal teenager that's so lost and just feels like he's not connected with the rest of his schoolmates.  And so that's why he initially is so attracted to Eric as a friend."
     As for Eric Harris, the play depicts him as a "Freak" in the first act, says director Sarah Wiggin.  She notes that he was on antidepressants and suffered "significant temper issues, so again he is somewhat isolated in terms of some of his classmates (hence the 'freak' description). But people discovered in hindsight that Eric was more 'social' than Dylan, and had the ability to be very charming."
     Rather than providing a definitive answer to the “Why” of Columbine, the play leaves us to draw our own conclusions — and ponder what we can do to prevent the next such tragedy.Tickets are $14 adults, $12 students & senior citizens ($8 in advance with MSU ID).  Call the MSU Tix number, 836-7678 or visit www.missouristatetix.com. For information on MSU Theatre and Dance visit http://theatreanddance.missouristate.edu.