With many hours a week spent practicing, the actors had to mentally prepare for the emotional aspects of the play rather than just memorize lines.
“Columbinus” is a theatrical exploration of the events surrounding the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colo., in which Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and a teacher.
The play was written by Stephen Karam and P.J. Paparelli and directed by Dr. Noah Lelek of Delta State University.
The play, which ran through Thursday, was bookended by anti-bullying and school violence awareness discussions.
The play began with characters only identified by their stereotypes, such as "Perfect," "Rebel," "Freak," "Jock," and "Loner," and as the play progresses, Freak and Loner morph into Harris and Klebold as the events are replayed in the second act.
In one talk back with the audience, Donovan McClung, who played Harris, said, “You'd be surprised at how much real and factual information you all just heard."
"The entire library scene was from transcripts and testimonies given by the victims and the students in the room," said Cameron Griffin who played Klebold.
During the infamous library scene, where both Harris and Klebold murdered 10 students and injured 12, the actors performed to their emotional ends as both Griffin and McClung screamed at the top of their lungs and recited what the two boys actually said during the incident.
Griffin said he did a great deal of research while preparing for the play in order to better understand the massacre as well as his character.
"There are a lot of resources available online about Columbine. I read Eric's journal in its entirety. I also read autopsy reports and there are a lot of videos. Both Eric and Dylan made a lot of home videos. A lot of the lines in the play are quotes straight out of the journals," said Griffin.
Many of the actors believed it was important that audience members understood this was a form of documentary theatre and while some noted reactions of those families in Littleton might be both negative and positive, McClung said, "The play really takes an active effort in being polite if that makes sense. It's not a reenactment and it's not meant to be."
During the last scene of the play when the victims are recognized by their names being written on a blackboard, the writers leave it up to the cast to decide whether or not to write Klebold's and Harris' names.
"I believe they were victims and we should at least recognize that," said McClung.
"I do feel they were victims but I definitely feel they were a different kind of victim. These kids were murdered in cold blood," said Griffin.
Lelek, who had the final say as teacher and director said he thought long and hard about whether or not to include the names.
"I eventually decided that enough of the play is about Eric and Dylan. This just needs to be for the victims."
For more information on the play and the Delta Players visit www.facebook.com/TheDeltaPlayers and for more information on bullying visit stopbullying.gov.