Theater enthusiasts have always believed that powerful, dramatic performances open doors to discussions about sensitive issues such as racism and violence. “Bang Bang You’re Dead,” a play by William Mastrosimone, aims to do just that, telling the story of a vulnerable high school boy who is led to violence as a result of bullying and preexisting, mental disturbances.
The show, which will open tonight, April 18 at 8 p.m. in Hubbell Auditorium, was written in 1999 and is strongly based on the school shooting in Springfield, Ore. On May 20, 1998, Kip Kinkel shot both of his parents. He then proceeded to his high school where he shot 27 students and wounded many others.
“Bang Bang” has been performed over 20,000 times since its publication and is available for free online. It is a one-act play lasting only about 45 minutes, but its subject matter often has a powerful impact on audiences. It has spurred discussions across the US and now will hit even closer to home with the recent violence in the news. According to Mastrosimone, the play is “accessible to older students. It requires no set, no lights, no costumes.”
Jonathan Grima ’11 plays Josh, the protagonist of the play.
“It’s kind of cool the way the show is shaped,” senior and The Opposite of People (TOOP) member Kelsey Burritt said. “It starts with Josh in prison. We reenact what happens to him inside his head.”
Grima had wanted to perform the show for a long time, but according to Burritt, the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School brought the idea to reality.
“Theater is a great instrument to bring people together,” Burritt said. “This play in particular would be a powerful tool to unite our campus and help us all think about the recent tragedies.”
She believes that this play can even be related to the recent bombing in Boston. “We didn’t want to narrow what we’re talking about to school shootings,” Burritt said. “We want to talk about violence in general, about the way we respond to it and prevent it, and how we think about teenage depression and mental health.”
Because of the show’s controversial content, TOOP has organized a panel discussion to follow the show. Representatives from student groups and professors alike have all been invited to participate.
Panelists will answer some questions posed by the cast and then open up the floor for questions from the audience.
The organizers of the event have tried to approach the issue with an open mind, even though it is easy to make quick conclusions about the issue of school violence.
“We don’t want to take a stance,” Burritt said. “We just want to present the story as a tactful narrative and provoke discussion amongst everyone.”
This is obviously a difficult issue to talk about. Students have all seen photos of the young, innocent children murdered at Sandy Hook and the man who killed them. It’s hard to understand how such violence could occur and even harder to see the story from the shooter’s perspective.
But this show attempts to do just that. It presents the story through the eyes of Josh, the shooter, and tries to bring the audience to a place of understanding. He experienced baleful bullying, which escalated into an unbelievably violent response. Bullying is an issue that many students can identify with.
“The experience of bullying or being bullied is one of the most relatable strands of the show,” Burritt said. “We often relate bullying with childish issues, but it’s definitely an issue in college. These things happen. I’m hoping people come forward and share stories and experiences [in the discussion.]”
Students have already come forward and showed their support for the show.
“The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Burritt said. “People agree that this is something we should talk about and discuss. It’s a dark issue, and people are intrigued and interested in the topic.”
Sanguinetti is a member of
the class of 2015.