Alaska's Perseverance Explores High School Tragedy in columbinus, May 4-29

By Kenneth Jones
22 Apr 2005

A cultural pulse-taking about teens, coming-of-age and violence — refracted through the tragedy of the Columbine High School slayings — will take the stage of Perseverance Theatre in Alaska this spring.



Perseverance, near Juneau, closes its 2004-2005 season with the world premiere of columbinus, created by artistic director PJ Paparelli and members of the United States Theatre Project, May 4-29.

The production is directed by Paparelli, and is a co—production world premiere with Round House Theatre in Silver Spring, MD, where the work was seen earlier this year.

columbinus "is a theatrical discussion about the events surrounding the April 20, 1999 Columbine High School shootings and weaves interviews with teenagers from around the country with survivor testimonies and police transcripts to explore the disconnect between suburban teens and the adults around them."

The National Endowment of the Arts is the production sponsor.

The United States Theatre Project was founded by PJ Paparelli in 2002. It is a non-profit collaboration "committed to the development of epic dramatic experiences, created through a process of in-depth field research and unique community interaction." Each project "examines a human event, condition, or phenomena intrinsic to our social and political fabric as Americans."

columbinus is the USTP's first project and has had workshops at North Carolina School of the Arts, Arena Stage, The Kennedy Center, and Curious Theatre Company in Denver.

The title (which is purposely lowercase) is the Latin for columbine, a flower. The Latin root means "dovelike," from the resemblance the inverted flower has to a cluster of doves.

"We define this work as a theatrical discussion rather than a play," Paparelli said in previous comments about the work, when it was still in its developing stages. "It's more comparable to Brecht's works than to a naturalistic play. That's partly due to the number of writers [from various disciplines and ages] working on it, so it has different styles."

Paparelli (conceiver/writer/director) is in his first year as the artistic director of Perseverance Theatre where he recently directed A Midsummer Night's Dream. Before coming to Juneau, he was the associate director of The Shakespeare Theatre, one of the nation's leading classical theatres, in Washington, D.C.

Patricia Hersch (playwright/dramaturg) has received national recognition for her groundbreaking book "A Tribe Apart: A Journey into the Heart of American Adolescence," said to be a mainstay for teens and adults alike seeking insight on today's adolescents.

Stephen Karam (playwright) is a 2002 graduate of Brown University. His most recent play, The Principal and the Pee, was commissioned and produced by Stark Raving Theatre in Portland, Oregon. His musical, Emma, received a concert reading at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and was read off-Broadway at Primary Stages, directed by Patricia Birch. His black comedy, Mister Murdery, premiered at the Cardboard Box Theater Company (Portland, OR) in October 2003.

Sean McNall (playwright) is a Resident Acting Company member of The Pearl Theatre in New York City and a graduate of the Julliard School Drama Division.

The cast includes Anne Bowles, Jeanne Dillon, James Flanagan, Daniel Frith, Gene Gillette, Karl Miller, Ekatrina Oleksa and Will Rogers.

Designers are Tony Cisek (set), Denise Umland (costume), Dan Covey (lighting), Martin Desjardins (sound) and JJ Kaczynski (projection).

Opening night is May 6. Perseverance Theatre is at 914 Third Street in Douglas, AK, next to Douglas Cafe.

For more information, call (907) 463-TIX or visit www.perseverancetheatre.org.