The Delta Players of Delta State University will present the play Columbinus, written by Stephen Karam and PJ Paparelli and directed by Dr. Noah Lelek of DSU.
This play will be a theatrical exploration of the events surrounding the 1999 Columbine School shooting.
The play will run from April 21-24 with anti-bullying and school violence awareness discussions before and after each performance.
On opening night a discussion and lecture will begin at 5 p.m. led by DSU professors, the play will begin at 7:30 p.m. and then following the performance there will be a symposium with Dr. Lelek, Dr. Lee, Dr. Harris, and Dr. McCormick who will discuss reactions, thoughts, and feelings with the audience.
Lelek has a special interest in this type of play because of his background in social justice theatre.
"I have always worked with social justice theatre and just came from a job in Chicago where I worked with youth who were in prison. We wrote original musicals with them, which they then acted so I've always been interested in how theatre can change society and open up people's minds about issues," he said.
According to stopbullying.gov, only about 20 to 30% of students who are bullied notify adults about the bullying, 28% of U.S. students in grades 6–12 experienced bullying, and 20 percent of U.S. students in grades 9–12 experienced bullying.
Lelek said this play would open the minds of those participating because bullying is still an ongoing issue in the United States.
"I do like theatre that entertains but I do like theatre that makes you think and teaches you something by opening your mind about issues. I think this play is really good because it's still continuing. If that was the only instance of a school shooting or school violence then it would be different but there was a shooting yesterday in Kansas City and a stabbing last week in Pittsburgh," said Lelek.
"I think we all want answers. We all want to know why this continues to happen and maybe what we're doing wrong or what we can do better. It seems like it's sort of a American problem," he added.
Lelek said this play doesn't give answers because he doesn't believe there are any, however, he does believe learning how it affects others can prevent bullying.
"This is a theatrical discussion and will open up people, which is why I'm having the talkbacks to get people talking about what we can do. As an artist I can't stop school shootings but I can create art that get's people to think about others in a different way," he said.
Columbinus is unique because it allows people to see into the lives of each of the students involved in the shooting.
Lelek discussed how the media reports only so much and is fact based, which keeps citizens from knowing these shooters and victims as people.
"You see who these people are because we do have a lot of information. This play is based on transcripts, videos, and evidence so we do get an insight into who these kids were. It's a visceral experience. You are close to the performers and you really sort of feel for them because you see where they came from. You can see places where decisions were made that could have affected the outcome," he said.
Opening night for the play is April 21 and the cost of admission is free to DSU students, faculty, and staff and $5 to the public.
Lelek said the play is for a mature audience and suggests ages 16 and up attend.
For more information on the play and the Delta Players visit www.facebook.com/TheDeltaPlayers and for more information on bullying visit stopbullying.gov.