Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Innovocative Theatre's Production COLUMBINUS Comes to Stageworks Theatre

Innovocative Theatre's Production COLUMBINUS Comes to Stageworks Theatre

Four months from now, America will mark the 20th anniversary of the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado in a state of contradiction. Though we condemned as a society the April 1999 massacre that left 15 dead and 21 wounded, school shootings across the United States have increased dramatically since then. The latest government figures show the dilemma has significantly worsened over the last two years: both the number of school shootings and the fatalities incurred in them more than doubled between 2017 and 2018. That total includes the 17 students and staff killed last February at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

In response, Innovocative Theatre, an intrepid young troupe producing theater in the public interest in Tampa Bay, is devoting its entire third season to issues surrounding violence and bullying among American adolescents and children. The season's first production, Columbinus, a docu-drama based on the watershed 1999 Colorado attack, runs at Stageworks Theatre, January 10-20, 2019.

In the aftermath of the calculated campaign of destruction and death that high school seniors Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold carried out upon the unarmed students and teachers of Columbine High, playwrights Stephen Karam and P.J. Paparelli, with the United States Theatre Project, conducted extensive research, poring over police records, transcripts, audio, video and written evidence. The pair interviewed survivors, family members and community leaders. Then they spoke with high school students across the country in their efforts to understand, verify and place the culture they found in a Colorado high school in its proper context.

The resulting play is an inventive intersection of fact and fiction. Its first act carefully delineates the stressors that alienate and destabilize teenagers in general as it follows eight archetypal students - including the most popular girl in school, a geek in Advanced Placement, a jock and a rebel - during a typical high school day. In the second act, the archetypal Freak and Loner take on the identity of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, and proceed to enact a high school day unlike any other.

In the process, Columbinus confronts us with the fatal consequences that result when a culture succeeds in weaponizing the alienation and angst of its own children.

"Despite the fact we're coming up on its 20th anniversary, Columbinus reads as if it were written today," producing artistic director Staci Sabarsky notes. "Our society has grown numb to news coverage of mass shootings as they continue to happen around our country. But we can't afford to look away and think, 'It won't happen here.' We've seen it can happen anywhere: schools, concerts, bars, places of worship. It's time we take a closer look and continue the conversation. That's why I chose to produce this play."

Innovocative's 2019 season builds on productions over the past two years that have garnered accolades from the region's critics, the respect of professional arts organizations, and ever-increasing levels of community support. Last season's production of Keely and Du was named a finalist for Outstanding Production in the 2018 Theatre Tampa Bay Awards, and Ms. Sabarsky was subsequently nominated for Best Director in Creative Loafing's Best of the Bay Awards.

Nick Hoop and Ryan Fisher will lead an eight-person ensemble in the roles of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. BroadwayWorld has said Hoop is "always a blessing on stage," and Tampa Bay Times praised his "endearing" work in Tampa Repertory Theatre's June production of A View from the Bridge. Fisher takes on Klebold after his October appearance in Sordid Lives at University of Tampa, where he's a Theatre and Communication major. Harrison Baxley, Caleb Brening, Fiona Walsh Calton, Alexandria Crawford, Kidany Camilo Nieves and Aubrey Vollrath round out the cast. Founding producing artistic director Staci Sabarsky directs.

In its production of Columbinus, Innovocative Theatre continues to partner with community leaders and organizations directly engaged with the issues we examine on stage. Our four matinee performances will include post-performance talkback panels with experts and activists in the field. Our January 12 panel includes Manuel Oliver, father of Joaquin Oliver, a student killed during the Parkland shooting and co-founder of, 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 us 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, we host a dialogue with Freddy Barton, executive director of Safe and Sound Hillsborough, and representatives from Kids Demand Action.

Stageworks Theater, Tampa's longest-running professional theater company, will host Innovocative's third season at its Channelside District venue on Kennedy Boulevard.

The company's 2019 season continues with The Hundred Dresses, August 1-11, 2019.

Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes, and More from Your Favorite Broadway Stars

Related Articles View More Tampa/St. Petersburg Stories

More Hot Stories For You