Stephen Karam and PJ Paparelli's Revised columbinus, About Columbine School Shooting, Will Premiere in Chicago

By Michael Gioia
02 Jan 2013

Stephen Karam
Stephen Karam
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

American Theater Company will present the world premiere of the revised columbinus, including material devised from recent interviews with survivors of the Columbine High School shootings, families of victims and residents of Littleton, CO. Performances will begin Feb. 1 in Chicago.

The work is written by Stephen Karam (Sons of the Prophet) and PJ Paparelli with dramaturgy by Patricia Hersch. Artistic director Paparelli conceived and directs the piece, which will officially open Feb. 6 for a run through March 10.

Here's how the work is described: "Littleton, Colorado. 1999. Two teenagers devastate a community and shock the country when they walk into their suburban high school and kill 12 students and one teacher. Based on interviews with teenagers across the country and survivors and community members in Littleton, this haunting drama takes a hard look at modern teenagers through the lens of the most infamous high school shooting in American history."

"Folks who didn't want to talk before because of lawsuits or their healing process, have now all opened up," said writer Paparelli in a statement. "I was shocked at what I heard and I am glad that theatre will be the vehicle to get this information out to the world."



The new material includes never-before-released information on the shooters and their families and first-hand accounts of both the Columbine and Aurora movie-theatre shootings. Several survivors who are featured in the documentary play will travel to Chicago to work with the cast and attend the Feb. 6 opening.

Paparelli added, "The events in Newtown have saddened and, frankly, angered our entire company as well as those survivors from Columbine with whom we have been working with so closely on this project. While the nation mourns, a passionate dialogue has begun about the larger issues of gun control, mental health treatment, and ultimately, the unanswerable question of, 'why?' Our interviewees in Colorado and our artistic team hope that columbinus will be forum for Chicagoans to further that dialogue, which is exactly why teenagers from Chicago Public School are at the center of that dialogue, as they work on the play in classrooms around the city."

The cast includes Matt Bausone (Freak/Eric Harris), Rob Fenton (Prep), Eric Folks (Loner/Dylan Klebold), Leah Karpel (Faith), Aaron J. Nelson (Jock), Kelly O'Sullivan (Perfect), Tyler Ravelson (AP) and Sadieh Rifai (Rebel).

Additionally, over 1,000 ninth grade students in Chicago public school English classes will have a first-hand experience with columbinus. Through ATC's American Mosaic program, and in conjunction with the citywide initiative to address violence in the schools, Now Is The Time, ATC teaching artists will collaborate with classroom teachers to lead students in a performance-based study of the play.

Other members of the show's creative team include scenic designer William Boles, lighting designer Jesse Klug, associate lighting designer Mac Vaughey, costume designer Sally Dolembo, sound designer Andre Pluess, original sound designer Martin Desjardins, projection designer Mike Tutaj, assistant director Michael Leibenluft, technical director Rick Combs, properties master G. Max Maxin IV and stage manager Katie Klemme.

columbinus premiered in 2005 in a co-production with Round House Theatre in DC and Perseverance Theater. The work received an Off-Broadway production at New York Theatre Workshop in 2006.

The American Theater Company is located at 1909 W. Byron Street in Chicago, IL. For more information, visit ATCWeb.org.