BWW Previews: POWERFUL TIMELY LOOK AT COLUMBINE, COLUMBINUS DEBUTS at Innovocative Theatre
Today, live shooter drills in elementary, middle and high school are as normal as fire drills, but twenty years ago, school shootings weren't commonplace. When Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris went on a shooting spree on April 20, 1999 at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado that killed 15 and injured 20, it became part of a history that we have yet to be able to escape, a division of "Before Columbine" and "After Columbine."
On January 10-20, Innovocative Theatre, known for their thought-provoking, edgy performances, will bring COLUMBINUS, a mixture of fact and fiction, to Stageworks. Leading an eight-person ensemble are Nick Hoop and Ryan Fisher in the roles of Eric and Dylan.
Based on true events, interviews, and records, COLUMBINUS looks at issues of alienation, hostility and social pressure in high schools.
Director Staci Sabarsky was struck by something a bereaved father said after the tragedy. "'My child was not at the right place at the wrong time. My child was at the right place at the right time. He was in school where he was supposed to be. He was in the library studying because he was a good student.' Our kids should be able to go to school and be safe. The message of COLUMBINUS is this could have been prevented. It's not like things came out of the blue. These two boys were troubled - in trouble with the law and in school. Their parents knew. They're were so many warning signs. As a society, somehow, they fell through the cracks."
In addition to Nick and Ryan as freak and loner, the archetypes of popular, jock, geek, rebel, and religious are played by Aubrey Vollrath, Caleb Brening, Harrison Baxley, Alexandria Crawford, Fiona Walsh Calton, and Kidany Camilo Nieves.
Ryan said that the characters are very powerful and the story very touching. "It's a story that could last generations. Many of the scenarios brought up in this production apply today. I believe this is a really impactful show. Fortunately, or unfortunately, this is one of the easiest parts I've ever researched because there is limitless information out there on Klebold that is still readily available on the internet."
Both Ryan and Nick said that best part of the production was working with each other, becoming their characters and working with their director and a strong community of gifted young actors.
"This is a show that can speak to everyone. It's one of the hottest issues in the current political climate. This show brings up some many good points of how we could have prevented this. Honestly, the reason the Columbine Massacre is so shrouded in mystery is because no one truly knows what the cause was. I believe that can apply to a lot of the unfortunate massacres in recent years," said Ryan. "After seeing our show, I want people to think that 'our interpretation of the shooting' might have been wrong because Columbine is one of the most misinterpreted events in recent time. I want people to be more enlightened on the situation and have more knowledge of the event going forward."
Staci feels today people are stepping up more when kids are bullied, depressed or seem suicidal, but it needs to continue. After seeing the show, she hopes a conversation is started and questions are asked. "What now? Yes, this happened twenty years ago and it's still happening - What else can we do now so that it doesn't continue to keep happening? There is definitely more that can be and should be done. They were two children when they were planning all this. Again, the warning signs were there."
To help answer that question, Innovocative Theatre's four matinee performances will include post-performance talkback panels with experts and activists in the field. The January 12 panel includes Manuel Oliver, father of Joaquin Oliver, a student killed during the Parkland shooting and co-founder of Changetheref.org, and representatives from gun safety activist groups Moms Demand Action, and March For Our Lives. On January 13, advocates from the youth activist group Team Enough, The Brady Campaign and Moms Demand Action join for discussion after the show. Representatives from the National Alliance on Mental Illness Hillsborough, the Tampa Police Department and Jesse Collins, a former school resource officer turned psychotherapist, will lead the conversation on Safety in our Schools on January 19, and on January 20, they host a dialogue with Freddy Barton, executive director of Safe and Sound Hillsborough, and representatives from Kids Demand Action.
Ryan said, "We're living in a twenty-year epidemic that has no end in sight and it really does speak to the state that our country is in."
Nick added, "I think, along with a new understanding of this terrible tragedy, this show will really push for communication. Adults communicating with their kids, teachers communicating with their students, and young adults advocating for their voice to be heard. Hopefully, if we do our jobs, on the drive home you'll be talking, but you'll also be more willing to listen."
COLUMBINUS is January 10-20 at Stageworks, 1120 E Kennedy Blvd suite #151, Tampa, FL 33602. For more information, visit https://innovocativetheatre.org or tickets at https://stageworkstheatre.secure.force.com/ticket?fbclid=IwAR20pZt8zg_mIdczTjwUTnJGtexslX66ojJePL2jDnKiQWlVB8bATHiBwVE#details_a0S1J00000BNSM6UAP.