Proms and Guns: High School Society and Violence Explored in columbinus at NYTW

News   Proms and Guns: High School Society and Violence Explored in columbinus at NYTW High school alienation, social structure and violence are broached in the Columbine inspired columbinus which will play at New York Theatre Workshop.
Keith Nobbs
Keith Nobbs Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Conceiver PJ Paparelli directs the work written by Stephen Karam and The United States Theatre Project for an Off-Broadway run that begins May 5 and opens May 22.

The April 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado was the impetus for columbinus which "weaves together excerpts from discussions with parents, survivors and community leaders in Littleton as well as diaries and home video footage to bring to light the dark recesses of American adolescence," as show materials explain.

The work debuted in 2005 at Washington, D.C.'s Round House Theatre in a co-production with Perseverance Theatre following a North Carolina School of the Arts workshop and an Arena Stage reading. It received four Helen Hayes Award nominations including Best Resident Play and Best Director. The NYTW run will be based on that presentation.

Keith Nobbs — who recently dealt with teen politics Off-Broadway in Dog Sees God — is featured in the cast of columbinus with original cast members Will Rogers and James Flanagan, Anna Camp (who appeared in the Arena reading), Joaquin Perez Campbell, Carmen M. Herlihy, Nicole Lowrance and Bobby Steggert.

columbinus received four Helen Hayes Award nominations including Best Resident Play and Best Director, Resident Play. The NYTW production of columbinus is based on the Round House Theatre / Perseverance Theatre co-production. "The creators of columbinus vividly portray the isolated world of adolescence, a place where proms and guns can exist side by side," said NYTW artistic director James Nicola in a release.

Creator Paparelli says "columbinus is not a play; it is a theatrical discussion. I always thought this piece would be an answer to the notorious question: 'Why?' After traveling to Littleton and meeting parents, children, survivors and community leaders, I realized there were answers from every perspective, including from the shooters themselves. With all these answers, I noticed things had not changed even in Littleton. Life went on. And all the reasons 'why' remain. Why does this cycle never change?"

Writer-consultant Patricia Hersch ("A Tribe Apart: A Journey into the Heart of American Adolescence") serves as dramaturg on the production. The design team includes Tony Cisek (scenic), Miranda Hoffman (costumes), Dan Covey (lighting), Martin Desjardins (sound) and JJ Kaczynski (projection). The production stage manager is Amy McCraney.

Tickets to columbinus at NYTW, 79 East Fourth St. (between Bowery and Second Ave.), can be purchased, starting April 20, at the box office or by calling (212) 239-6200. For more information, visit www.nytw.org.

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