It's every parent's nightmare: an ordinary day at school disrupted when a student suddenly produces a gun and commits a terrifying, seemingly meaningless act of violence. A rash of such tragedies occurred last year, the most notorious happening in Eugene, Oregon.
From Pearl Jam's "Jeremy" to Bob Geldof's "I Don't Like Mondays," pop music has occasionally tried to delve into what turns apparently run-of the-mill kids into killers. Now playwright William Mastrosimone is going a step further. He's penned a drama, specifically for young adult audiences, about the social pressures that can lead to such an explosion of violence, and how other students can both recognize warning signs and cope with the tragedy's aftermath.
The piece, Bang, Bang, You're Dead, is being performed this week at the very spot that inspired it: Thurston High School in Eugene, OR. Mastrosimone told "CBS This Morning" his son pointed out the shooting in the newspaper, leading his father to sit down and start writing the play that very night.
A clip of the production was shown on CBS. The scene had "Josh" miming aiming a shotgun, while several student voices behind him whispered reasons why he should and shouldn't go over the edge.
Interviewed alongside Mastrosimone, the two young actors (students at the high school) playing Josh were asked whether taking part in the production helped them cope with the shooting. Both replied, separately, that they were perfectly fine and that "Josh" was just a role in a play like other roles they'd done. However, they did express the hope that the play would help other kids who might be affected by such disasters. Playwright Mastrosimone is best known for Extremities, about a sexual assault victim turning the tables on her attacker. Other plays include Benedict Arnold, Sunshine and Like, Totally Weird, which tells of disturbed teens who take hostages and then act out the violence they've seen in American movies.
Mastrosimone said he hoped his play about the Oregon shooting would be done in high schools all across America.
-- By David Lefkowitz