TODAY

Tuesday, September 2

Gapers Block
Search

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr


A/C
« Chicago Urban League's Black History Month Film Festival Side Effects & John Dies at the End »

Feature Thu Feb 07 2013

Columbinus: Silence is Deadly

Matt Bausone, Eric Folks - H.jpg

On April 20, 1999, when I was 9 years old, I arrived at my elementary school in Lakewood, CO early like I always did. I liked to play outside on the blacktop with my friends before class began. It was such a normal morning. By the end of the day, all of the doors to the school would be locked and none of us would be allowed to leave the building until our parents came in to get us.

On April 20, 1999, Colorado changed forever. At 11:19am, 10.3 miles south of my elementary school, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris began the massacre that claimed the lives of 12 students and one teacher, and injured countless others at Columbine High School. Before Columbine, a school shooting had never been heard of in Colorado. Since 1999, there have been many.

The shooting happened 13 years ago, but I woke up this morning feeling as though it was yesterday. Last night, I was a guest at the American Theater Company's performance of Stephen Karam and PJ Paparelli's Columbinus, a three-act "theatrical discussion" of the tragedy based on old and new interviews with survivors and their parents, and one of the best productions I have ever seen.

I was 9 when the massacre took place, and I was very well-insulated from the cold, disturbing, and heartbreaking revelations that gripped Colorado for weeks after it happened. Thinking back now, I never saw a newspaper article about it, and although I caught glimpses of the makeshift memorial on the news, I was never exposed to the raw footage of the shootings or the many discussions of their consequences. Columbinus opened my eyes to the reality of the horror and gave me a sort of understanding of the senseless act. The play puts the audience on both sides of the gun and in the minds of the killers, who were in fact teenage boys struggling the same way we all did.

I spent the greater part of the day preparing for the show. I knew it was going to be heavy. I was already nervous when I walked in the theater to see a set comprised of a chalkboard and several metal desk chairs. The brilliantly written play began on a positive note. It took us all back to high school -- to the annoyance of our 7am alarm clocks; to the never-ending debate of what to wear for the day; to the insecurities involved in bridging out from our own set cliques; to the awkwardness of crushes -- things that are all familiar and fond to us in retrospect. However, from there, the comedy disappears altogether.

The audience is privy to the thoughts inside each of the students' minds -- the helplessness and desperation to fit in, the rejection of authority figures, the repulsive notion of having nowhere to turn, and most chillingly, in the minds of Klebold and Harris, the desire for godliness and power above the law and life itself. The lines leave you raw. They drag out everything you have struggled to repress. They force you to confront things that you're more comfortable tucking away beneath the fogginess of memory. By the end of the first act, I was left wondering how any of us survived high school at all. How did we get out alive after being trapped in the pressure cooker that is teenagehood?

The whole production has a sickening tone to it. We all know what's coming, what already happened 13 years ago. Yet, sickening does not mean unmoving. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Columbinus is so moving and intense that the two 10-minute intermissions are essential. The human heart can't handle the tension and tragedy of what we already know will happen.

Already, the play has managed to raise questions about the state of our high schools. The first act makes strong statements about parental involvement and school counseling, and once again brings to attention the ethical issue of school censorship -- whether a school should take action against what it deems to be out of the ordinary behavior or if that is too slippery a slope.

I am having trouble finding words for the second act. It takes the audience and puts them in the library at 11:19am on April 20, 1999. You are there. You see your friends get shot. The madness of Klebold and Harris surrounds you and you cannot escape. There are no props in the second act, not even guns. There was nothing "real" about the scene on the stage in front of me, and yet, it is the most real situation I have ever found myself in. The act went by in a flash of intensity, so much so that when the house lights came up for the second intermission, no one moved, no one spoke, no one breathed. The audience just stared ahead in awe, feeling so much, but feeling only a fraction of the terror that took hold that day. Somewhere between the photos, the 911 recording, and Klebold and Harris's goodbye and suicides, we lost ourselves.

The last act of the show covered the hours, days and years after the massacre. Parents told where they were when they found out and how they reacted. The survivors told how they moved on. For some, the shooting inspired their career choices, while others turned to alcohol and drugs.

Then, there's a glimmer of hope. The cast tells the story of how the Columbine Memorial at Clement Park came to be erected. The monument serves as a place of peace and remembrance for those who lost their lives on that day so that we may never forget. Remembrance is also the reason that every person in Chicago should see this play.

I've never seen the memorial, but I remember visiting Clement Park a few years after the shooting with my best friend, Grace. We were too young to understand the implications of where we were, but I felt there like I had felt in only one other place -- church. I knew I was walking on hallowed ground.

This same hallowed ground played host to 15 crosses created by Aurora-based artist, Greg Zanis. The crosses sparked controversy. Many students and parents believed that Klebold and Harris did not deserve to be a part of the memorial. Hate, the very thing that drove the two boys to the massacre, continued to motivate those affected by the shooting. The vandalizing of the crosses, as well as dozens of vicious phone calls to Zanis, led the artist to take the crosses away. There are still so many questions surrounding the consequences of this tragedy -- chief among them is the thin line between honoring the dead and forgiving a haunting crime.

Years later, there is still controversy over releasing the tapes, 911 calls, and journals of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. The two boys wanted to change the world they lived in, and they did.

After the play was over, I was putting my coat on and turned around to see a man wearing a Colorado Rockies hat. He was Brian Stepp, one of the survivors. Simply seeing him humbled me. I wanted to talk to him; to ask him questions, but after fumbling around for a few minutes with what to say, I came up dry. I thought about making a joke about the Rockies' last season or bringing up Todd Helton's recent DUI arrest to ease into conversation, but what do you say to someone who has seen such horror? What questions do you ask someone who has already been asked a million questions about what he experienced?

The entire cast of the play deserves a shout-out. The acting was incredible and believable. The lighting design was spot on, they writing was flawless, and the directing brought the play together in the perfect way.

Columbinus plays every Thursday through Sunday through March 10 at the American Theater Company, 1909 W. Byron Ave.Tickets are $38. The content is very mature and the play includes the use of strobe lights, smoke, and loud gunshot sounds.

 

David Blanchard / February 8, 2013 8:16 AM

Living in the Denver area this article brought back every emotion that was felt and is still felt today not only my myself but of those citizens that live those thoughts and memories every day since 1999. Excelent write up by Ms. Shuel.

Lindsay / February 8, 2013 11:56 PM

I couldn't agree with you more about this show. I was speechless by the end of the show. The cast was out of this world! The honesty and emotion that they poured into these characters was so moving. Shout out to the cast! Matthew Bausone, Jerod Haynes, Rob Fenton, Eric Folks, Kelly O'Sullivan, Leah Raidt, Tyler Ravelson, and Sadieh Rifai.

Ashley / February 22, 2013 5:17 PM

I wish this production was here in CO. It would be a shout out to the people who experienced this madness first hand.

Cindy / February 22, 2013 6:18 PM

Excellent article! I remember that day very clearly. I have a friend whose son was a senior there at the time. Someone heard about it on the internet at work and told her about it. I remember the horror she was feeling not hearing from her son right away and not knowing if he was OK. Wish I could have seen this play.

Jessica / July 11, 2013 8:35 AM

I know this is late, but I've just seen this now.

My brother knew Dylan Klebold and he found pictures from Columbinus online and was truly shocked. In some of the stills Eric Folks looks so much like Dylan my brother thought it WAS Dylan. He told me that despite his huge interest in this production he could never see it, because it would be just too close to home for him, not only the massacre recreation as a whole, but the simply uncanny resemblance of Folks and Klebold. He does applaud the casting though.

I'd love to see this and it's a shame it hasn't found its way to Colo.

Add a Comment




Please enter the letter i in the field below:



Live Comment Preview


Notes & Tags

Items marked with a * are required fields. Please respect each other. We reserve the right to delete any comments borne out of douchebaggery or that deal in asshattery.

Permitted tags and how to use them:

To link: <a href="http://blahblahblah.com">Link text</a>
To italicize: <em>Your text</em>
To bold: <strong>Your text</strong>

Theater Wed Aug 13 2014

An Epic, Tragic Win: All Our Tragic

By Benjamin Cannon & Mike Ewing

What then is to be made of the Hypocrites' new stage production, All Our Tragic? This massive opus, comprising all 32 surviving Greek tragedy plays re-written and directed by Sean Graney, lasts a staggering 12 hours, including intermissions and meal breaks. Ben and Mike go the distance.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Aug 29 2014

The November Man, Frank, As Above/So Below, Love Is Strange, Life of Crime, Bound By Flesh, To Be Takei & Me and You

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

Blogroll

ACRE
An Angry White Guy
Antena
AREA Chicago
ArchitectureChicago Plus
Arts Engagement Exchange
The Art Letter
Art or Idiocy?
Art Slant Chicago
Art Talk Chicago
Bad at Sports
Bite and Smile
Brian Dickie of COT
Bridgeport International
Carrie Secrist Gallery
Chainsaw Calligraphy
Chicago Art Blog
Chicago Art Department
Chicago Art Examiner
Chicago Art Journal
Chicago Artists Resource
Chicago Art Map
Chicago Art Review
Chicago Classical Music
Chicago Comedy Examiner
Chicago Cultural Center
Chicago Daily Views
Chicago Film Examiner
Chicago Film Archives
Chicago Gallery News
Chicago Uncommon
Collaboraction
Contemporary Art Space
Co-op Image Group
Co-Prosperity Sphere
Chicago Urban Art Society
Creative Control
Defibrillator
Devening Projects
Digressions
DIY Film
ebersmoore
The Exhibition Agency
The Flatiron Project
F newsmagazine
The Gallery Crawl...
Galerie F
The Gaudy God
Happy Dog Gallery
HollywoodChicago
Homeroom Chicago
I, Homunculus
Hyde Park Artcenter Blog
InCUBATE
Joyce Owens: Artist on Art
J-Pointe
Julius Caesar
Kasia Kay Gallery
Kavi Gupta Gallery
Rob Kozlowski
Lookingglass Theatre Blog
Lumpen Blog
Marquee
Mess Hall
N'DIGO
Neoteric Art
NewcityArt
NewcityFilm
NewcityStage
Not If But When
Noun and Verb
On Film
On the Make
Onstage
Peanut Gallery
Peregrine Program
Performink
The Poor Choices Show
Pop Up Art Loop
The Post Family
The Recycled Film
Reversible Eye
Rhona Hoffman Gallery
Roots & Culture Gallery
SAIC Blog
The Seen
Sharkforum
Sisterman Vintage
Site of Big Shoulders
Sixty Inches From Center
Soleil's To-Do's
Sometimes Store
Steppenwolf.blog
Stop Go Stop
Storefront Rebellion
TOC Blog
Theater for the Future
Theatre in Chicago
The Franklin
The Mission
The Theater Loop
Thomas Robertello Gallery
threewalls
Time Tells Tony Wight Gallery
Uncommon Photographers
The Unscene Chicago
The Visualist
Vocalo
Western Exhibitions
What's Going On?
What to Wear During an Orange Alert?
You, Me, Them, Everybody
Zg Gallery

 

Events

Mon Sep 1 2014
Impress These Apes @ ComedySportz

Mon Sep 1 2014
The Unauthorized "Saved by the Bell" Story @ East Room

Mon Sep 1 2014
Noir City Film Festival @ Music Box

Mon Sep 1 2014
Chicago Fringe Festival

Tue Sep 2 2014
Noir City Film Festival @ Music Box

Wed Sep 3 2014
Noir City Film Festival @ Music Box

Thu Sep 4 2014
Chicago Fringe Festival

Thu Sep 4 2014
Strictly Ballroom @ Millennium Park

Thu Sep 4 2014
Noir City Film Festival @ Music Box

Fri Sep 5 2014
Chicago Fringe Festival

Fri Sep 5 2014
Life Itself @ Film Center

Fri Sep 5 2014
The Hideout Block Party & Onion AV Fest

Fri Sep 5 2014
Luiz Gonz╬Člez Palma Reception & Exhibit @ Schneider Gallery

Fri Sep 5 2014
Zoovie: Best in Show @ Lincoln Park Zoo

Fri Sep 5 2014
First Friday @ Flat Iron Building

Sat Sep 6 2014
Eugene Sun Park's Film Self Deportation @ Chicago Filmmakers

Sat Sep 6 2014
Filipino Cinema series @ Film Center

Sat Sep 6 2014
Chicago Fringe Festival

Sat Sep 6 2014
Internet Cat Video Festival @ Metro

Sun Sep 7 2014
Chicago Fringe Festival


A/C on Flickr

Join the A/C Flickr Pool.



About A/C

A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: LaShawn Williams, ldw@gapersblock.com
A/C staff inbox: ac@gapersblock.com

Archives

 

A/C Flickr Pool
 Subscribe in a reader.

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15

Newsletter

Sign up for our free email newsletter I Star Chi and get a weekly round-up of the best of Gapers Block, plus our picks for must-do events each weekend!

istarchi

Preferred format    Preferred format