Cast and crew scurry around the Squitieri Studio Theatre at the Phillips Center as they prepare for their final dress rehearsal. In one corner, actors rehearse their fight scene over and over until the assistant stage manager says it looks perfect. In the back of the theatre the lighting directors run through their cues. The chaotic energy in the theatre comes to a halt when a voice yells “places.”
The cast enters from the back of the theatre and begins to tell the story of “Columbinus”, which depicts the Columbine Shooting in a non-traditional form.
Described as a dramatic discussion, the first act of the show portrays a stereotypical high school where the nameless students are facing issues students have and will continue to struggle with, including : religion, homosexuality, mental illness and many more. As the second act begins, two of the students become Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the two mass murderers from the Columbine High School shooting.
For Ryan Siegel, a UF theatre sophomore, who plays Eric Harris, researching the role was particularly intense for him.
“It’s an intense show, but when you go through and actually start researching Eric Harris, his journal and stuff like that you start to find that so many of the things within the show, and so many of the lines are literally just manipulated to make a story,” Siegel said. “It just makes me understand the gravity of the show we’re doing.”
The show, though already heavy, is intensified through its technical production. Between the audio of the 911 calls to the lighting, it allows the audience member to immerse themselves in the story line.
Julia Shack, a UF economics and theatre sophomore, who serves as Lighting Director and Assistant Production Manager for the Florida Players, said she wanted to make sure the lighting represented the show.
“Our goal with lighting is to enhance the script and not take away from the actors, which really proved to be a challenge,” Shack said. “We have some cool effects going on and some cool atmosphere and looks. Our goal was to make it as whole as possible.”
Despite the nature of the show, assistant director Leah Vicencio, a UF theatre sophomore, hopes the audience leaves inspired to bring more goodness into the world.
“I hope they leave with a reminder of how important it is to listen to one another and remember how important kindness and empathy is in this world,” Vicencio said. “So if they are inspired to spread more love and empathy into the world and start a discussion, that’s pretty much the biggest take way for me.”
“Columbinus” runs 7:30 p.m. March 29 – March 31, and at 2 p.m. on March 30 and 31.