Saturday, April 05, 2008

columbinus


Blue Monkey Theater
April 4 - April 12, 2008

Review by Mint Tumbles

Overlong first act by turns insightful, funny, cliched - examines high school through use of eight stereotypes. All eight teens feel rage, isolation, but only two come back from intermission as Klebold and Harris. Brutal second act flays you with actual transcripts. Strong ensemble work on demanding script. Stay for talkback.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am appalled at that photo.

You have teenage kids in a photo, holding guns. I've seen a copy of this script (they've been sending it out as a publicity tool) and the second act is actually a re-creation of the Columbine shooting.

This is the worst kind of sensationalism. It's using the thrill of violence and this sort of raw emotion to try to draw an audience, and justifying it by saying it's about "important issues." How do you think the families of the Columbine dead would feel about this show? It's just flat out exploitative.

And why does the first act call for teenagers to be onstage in their underwear? Why is this necessary? It's not. Again, sensationalism and exploitation.

And it's just irresponsible.

Sara Simon said...

As a member of the cast, I respectfully disagree.

I understand any disgust or uncertainty about the content or subject matter of the production. I also understand that a number of people will choose not attend because of it.

That said, columbinus is absolutely not about the thrill of violence, and I do hope you will give the script another read if that is what you got out of it. columbinus simply presents a statement about human interaction. It explains the issues that teenagers are forced to deal with. From social loneliness to academic pressure, columbinus shows how different individuals respond to those situations. In some cases, as April 20, 1999 demonstrated, the responses can be violent, horrific and devastating. columbinus illustrates this extremity only to prove the necessity in selecting the healthy way to respond.

And the underwear thing is just a statement about neutrality. It is proving that we are all alike to each other; we all start in the same place. Our differences develop when we choose how to react to certain situations, when we choose the people to associate ourselves with or, in this case, the clothes we choose to put on every morning before school.

Sincerely,

Sara Simon

Anonymous said...

I believe the script was written with full cooperation from families of the Columbine victims, as well as numerous survivors of the shooting, who were interviewed and are directly quoted in the play. "Columbinus" is very much like another well known theater piece; "The Laramie Project". Neither play glorifies violence or tries to exploit it's subject matter.

Blue Monkey sent copies of the script to educators and the media in order to be responsible about the audiences it attracted. They do not want young children to attend by accident and they want parents and educators to be able to make an informed and responsible choice before bringing their teens to the play. This is hardly a publicity tool. I think trying to prevent certain audiences from attending your show is actually the exact opposite of "exploitive".

Props to the courageous young cast member for taking the highroad. Her calm and well thought-out response to such mean spirited garbage (seriously, are you actually trashing the show before it even opens?) shows that Blue Monkey's teen actors not only develop strong skills, but learn something much more important; strength, maturity and character.

Anonymous said...

I clearly wasn't trashing the show. I didn't even speak about the "show." I spoke about the script, and the publicity.

I think it's irresponsible to expose young children (and I mean those under 18) to this sort of material. What sort of rating would this play have in the cinema? R? NC-17? Does it make it any less offensive because it's "real?" Or more offensive?

I won't be allowing my teenagers to go, you can be certain of that. All we're going to be doing is putting ideas into our own kids heads.

Don't be surprised if this sort of thing starts happening around here next. THEN where will you and your show be?

Brandee said...

Nice. Shelter your kids. Thats where it all starts. Do you also shelter your kids from movies with sex? Drugs? Racism? So they wont 'do' that?

And thank you for not having the guts to put a face behind your words.

splattworks said...

Got news for you, anonymous: they're already exposed to it on the nightly news. They're exposed to it at metal detectors at their schools. And, by the way, "kids" over 18 are called "adults."

Kudos to Blue Monkey for taking on a difficult subjet.

Anonymous said...

"Don't be surprised if this sort of thing starts happening around here next. THEN where will you and your show be?"

Okay, in my opinion, the script is an exploitive, sensational, "ripped-from-the-stale-headlines" sort of affair, but this is ridiculous. To insinuate that a play (or TV show, film, book, etc.) will inspire teenagers to shoot their classmates is just mind-bogglingly dumb that I literally cannot imagine how anyone could come to such a conclusion. Try parenting. You know, instilling values into your children that are somewhere along the lines of "killing is bad." And stop looking at the entertainment industry to do your parenting work for you.

Anonymous said...

"Don't be surprised if this sort of thing starts happening around here next. THEN where will you and your show be?"

What an odd and creepy thing to say. Are you somehow hypothetically connecting this production with future teenage violence in the Portland area? How wildly unfounded and absurd of you.

Break legs cast. And thank you, Miss Simon,for being adult, professional, and for using using an ounce of common sense and critical analysis before posting!

Keiler Beers said...

As another member of the cast, I think it would be hard to be go into a show entitled "columbinus" and expect anything less than something violent and provocative. Yes, for some teenagers it might be the wrong choice to come to see it. But how is that different than any of the movies that are out in theaters all the time, glorifying violence far more than a play like "columbinus"? While the play shares the story of the two killers, it in no way condones or glorifies their actions. I think that it is far more important to expose teenagers to the tragedy, what led to it, and how to prevent another one than to shelter them simply for the risk of putting an idea in their heads.

In regards to the idea that seeing the show will cause people to go out and commit similar actions, I am led to wonder if you think seeing The Crucible would lead people to go out on a witch hunt? Or seeing The Laramie Project to murder a gay man? Romeo and Juliet hasn’t spawned a rash of teenage suicides. I don't think there is reason to believe seeing such pieces of theater would do anything other than inform, or ideally inspire.

And finally, the comment "Don't be surprised if this sort of thing starts happening around here next. THEN where will you and your show be?" seems more to me like a threat than anything else. To suggest that engaging in a serious discussion about a tragic event would lead to similar tragedies in the future seems to me to be nothing more than willfully disregarding our responsibility to examine and understand our society.

Those who cannot learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.
-George Santayana

Anonymous said...

So afford me a moment of clarity, you're saying that because of this show, teens in Portland will start shooting each other?

Anonymous said...

* sigh * Must be nice to believe that theater could actually have that much of an effect on its audience. . . .

Ben Waterhouse said...

"Don't be surprised if this sort of thing starts happening around here next."

It did, in 1998, at Thurston High. It was horrible. Everyone in the state thought we might be next. And it had absolutely nothing to do with theater, unless you count Kip Kinkel's Romeo and Juliet fixation. Would you ban your teens from seeing that?

So what are the limits here? Are we not allowed to expose young people to theater about the Holocaust? About the Rwandan genocide? The Iraq war? The Salem witch trials? The War of the Roses?

It is absolutely necessary for us to examine tragedy through art. How else can we hope to understand it? What's tasteless and exploitative is to keep showing the Columbine security camera footage on late-night TV. I ran across it a few nights ago and was horrified.

Jonathan said...

This show was doomed from the start in terms of social commentaries.
If anyone has seen the show yet, I think it entirely fair to say what you have to say. This is a show and an event that people are going to have different reactions to, there is no stopping that.
I would like to ask however, that if you have not seen the show yet, please take the two hours and educate yourselves.
"Columinus" offers insight into the minds of the teens and adults who were part of the tragic event, and also offers insight into how our youth today is looking at the event.
It’s sad to see someone so distraught over something so educational. Like everyone before me, would you not want your kid to learn about the holocaust? Romeo and Juliet? Thurston?
This play is not paying tribute to Dylan or Eric but opening your eyes to what might have caused them to do what they did, and paying tribute to the young people who just happened to cross paths with them on that day.
So please stop making this play out the be the bad guy. Suck it up and go see it. I think you will be surprised at how moving of a piece it actually is.

Jonathan Swartout

Anonymous said...

Absolutely. Astounding.

Between this show and Les Mis, do we even need adult actors anymore?

Don't miss this show. Just don't.

Anonymous said...

It was a truly amazing show. it was so great that it hurt me, made me cry and i felt sick during the whole second act.
one of the few plays ive seen that really made me think.

twinks*** said...

I am bugged by the fact that most people are commenting on the controversy of the show, and not concentrating on the effort and the truly amazing acting that went into making the show. A teenage actor myself, I would hate to think this show would be remembered only as a controversy, and not as a beautiful piece of art that took a lot of hard work and determination.

Anonymous said...

What are the remaining shows open to public?

Carmen Hill said...

Thursday, April 10 at 7 pm (student special ticket price: $10!)
Friday, April 11 at 7 pm
Saturday April 12 at 7 pm

Hope to see you there...

Anonymous said...

The remaining public shows are Thursday, April 10, Friday, April 11, and Saturday, April 12 at 7:00 p.m. I believe the Thursday night show will offer $10 tickets for students.

Anonymous said...

Next week only Thursday-Sunday.
It's a shame, it should run longer.

Anonymous said...

Travis Patterson said...
This script was inspired by real life! The person who said "Don't be surprised if this sort of thing starts happening around here next. THEN where will you and your show be?" How dare you! You should be ashamed of yourself! This has happened around here already! Maybe you don't remember Springfield, OR! I know people who where in that and who where affected by that! I may have chosen not to see this show but that’s because I have seen this first hand! This show is not about violence, it is not glorifying gun totting teenagers! It is bringing to light a disturbing part of what happens in schools these days! This type of thing should never have happened, but it is people who choose to close there eyes, cast judgment, and point fingers at everyone else that allow this kind of thing to happen. Wake up and get over yourself.
I am now 28 and was in high school when Columbine happened. I was also affected by the Springfield shootings. Again how dare you attack this show and place future actions of others on this cast! You should be extremely ashamed of yourself. Maybe if parents did not rely on TV to raise their children this would not happen. As you said you will not let your children see the show, fine that is your decision. Just remember you should not let them watch the news either as they can see far worse ideas on that. If you teach your children right from wrong and are an active member in your child’s life you should have nothing to worry about. You can't hide them away from the world… it will always be out there!

Courtney said...

First, and most importantly, regardless of the content, columbinus was an incredible production, fueled by teenage actors.

As far as the content is concerned, the fact that people have dubbed this a controversial play emphasizes the discussion that it prompts, which even further amplifies the necessity for its performance. We will never move on from the past if we do not attempt to understand it; its emotions, its subtle nuances.

The fact that I got chills from the excerpt about Hitler Youth and Caine and Abel, and was very nearly moved to tears by the recited transcripts of real interviews with Columbine victims speaks to the importance of the play.

In no way is this sensationalism - it's the use of real life - to the extent we can find truth in memory - to craft a means by which to understand an event emotionally. If you call columbinus sensational, then so too was the event itself, and so too is every high school and clique conflict in every state in the US.

And finally, to the person who threatened Portland teens: I see you as no more than a self-glorifying person, even too afraid to identify yourself, who wanted to light up the blog and gain some attention. If discussion prompts a repetition of events, then I suppose we're all doomed to another Iraq War, another Virginia Tech, and a plethora of other tragic events. I'd rather have understanding and progress, than ignorance and your sensationalism.

Anonymous said...

I am impressed that Blue Monkey had the guts to take this show on, and also by the great cast and performances.

That being said, I'm not sure what the purpose of this show is.

Was it well performed by a great cast? Absolutely.

Is it disturbing? Yes.

Does it offer new insights into what happened at Columbine or why? Not really.

To use the obvious comparison to another act of violence that inspired a play, COLUMBINUS is nowhere near as deep and probing and ultimately enlightening as THE LARAMIE PROJECT.

After LARAMIE, I felt like I had learned a lot. After COLUMBINUS, I felt like I had been there in the school under a table being shot at.

Horrifying and potentially traumatizing, yes, but not much beyond that. I just wanted to get away at the end. And I felt sick for the rest of the day.

Most of us are already familiar with the revenge of the nerds thesis.

Sadly, as mundane and banal as it sounds, that seems to have been more or less the summary of what happened at Columbine. It's that simple. And awful.

Of course there is a ton of additional research that could be done into these characters' social and cultural backgrounds. Maybe there is something new or interesting to be found there. But this play does not go down that path.

Replaying the violence, as the second act does, is potentially damaging to both cast and audience. It's like watching the actual video tapes from the school, or footage of an actual murder. What does that do for us?

Yes, it simulates being there very well. But what is the purpose of that? Being present for a murder is not something you would wish on anyone.

The playwrights have successfully marshaled the dark energies of the violence, but they seem not to know what else to do with the story.

I remember a sharp social analysis after Virginia Tech (maybe in NYT) that probed the narcissistic nature of these crimes. Essentially they boil down to someone wanting attention. They have no political aim. These crimes are not of the same nature as, say, terrorist bombings that hope to achieve some goal. They have no aim other than publicity.

What needs to be explored is, what is it about the US social system that creates such horribly wounded, emotionally deformed, ferocious losers? What are the ingredients that seem to keep churning out kids with so little sense of self, or community, or tradition that massacres like this seem like a good idea?

I do understand the argument: "Don't look away - this is the reality." We do need to face what is causing these crimes.

But I'm not sure reenacting the crimes in graphic detail does that. There's a fine line between understanding something and simply exposing yourself to a toxic substance that will only cause harm.

Anonymous said...

The talkback seemed to address exactly those issues. Granted, it's probably different each night...

Anonymous said...

Thursday night's post show talk back was especially powerful. There was a woman in the audience who was a former student at Columbine High School and who had lived in Littleton most of her life. Her younger brother survived the shootings.

She said she was nervous about going to the play at first. She had never heard of it and was concerned about how the material was going to be handled. She was both thankful for and impressed by the production. She felt it honored the victims while bringing to the forefront a lot of the issues that surrounded the shootings. She said the play was "relevant and very important" and that the subject matter was "very well handled".

That seems to be a pretty definitive statement on weather or not the show is exploitive of the tragedy and weather or not it has social merit.

Two more nights left. This show is a must see.

William said...

This is the type of show that Blue Monkey SHOULD do! These Ground-Breaking shows are what Portland teens should be exposed to. At least one a season? This is what I feel is truly sticking to the mission statement and "taking a risk." The show gave me goosebumps the whole time. Great ensemble and a few stand out performances.

Anonymous said...

If you were lucky enough to catch "Wrestling Season" last year, you'd know that Blue Monkey absolutely does this kind of piece at least once a year. That was also a gripping and edgy piece of teen drama with an amazing and talented young cast.

Sara Simon did amazing work in both shows, as she has in a wide variety of roles at Northwest Classical Theater.

So when in this young lady getting a Drammy?

Anonymous said...

hear hear!

Anonymous said...

I agree! Sara Simon's amazing. Her quirky humor and amazing maturity she gives to the stage really allowed her to shine over the other ensemble members.