Play deals with school shooting

Tomorrow, Christopher and Smith will walk into a high school classroom bearing rifles and .22 caliber pistols.

The lights will shut off, a brief confrontation will take place and the slaughter will begin. Bullet after bullet will pierce human flesh, killing almost every student in the classroom.

On April 16, 10 days prior to the aforementioned scene, an armed gunman chained shut the doors of Norris Hall, the engineering building at Virginia Tech University, and went on the worst killing spree in the history of the United States. When the gunshots subsided, 32 Virginia Tech students, innocent victims, lay dead in the carnage, as well as the gunman who had taken his own life.

Christopher, played by Andrew Pattison ’07, and Smith, played by Kurt Sibert ’07, are homosexual lovers in Sophie Levan’s ’08 one act, “Risk,” that will be performed just over two weeks after the massacre that took place at Virginia Tech.

After facing constant taunting and teasing by their peers, the couple decides to take revenge on their classmates.

“It’s really scary playing a psychopath,” Pattison said. “I will be on stage performing and finding all these cool things I can do with my character. It’s like what if I did this or what if I did that. That could be really cool. Then I remember I’m supposed to be a killer and I question if I’m a psychopath. It makes me realize that everyone has a little killer in them.”

The one act, directed by Nick Searcy (Chloe ’07) with the help of assistant director Max Grey ’08, has taken on a new meaning for those participating in the project since the tragedy at Virginia Tech. 

“It made everything a lot more real and everyone took the play a lot more seriously,” Grey said.

“Everything became heavier. I think it will now have a greater effect on the audience and I wouldn’t be surprised if people became offended. A sense of truth has been added to the performance. It’s scary.”
When the actors take the stage the entire cast realizes that the audience’s reaction will be profoundly different then what it would have been if the Virginia Tech bloodbath had not occurred.

“It’s a play about how people treat each other and I think Virginia Tech will bring the focus back on that,” Levan said. “I think the play will be much more emotional and personal to people in the audience, even if they weren’t directly affected by what happened.”

On April 16, the day of the shooting, the cast did not even rehearse. They sat and talked about what happened and how they felt and also watched a documentary on the Columbine shootings of 1999.

“That day it happened we were really incapable of rehearsing,” Searcy said. “We really just wanted to sit and talk and try to wrap our heads around what had just happened.”

The following day there was a respectful silence among the actors between breaks in the rehearsal.

“When you do a play of this magnitude, its easy to lose the gravity of it because you are doing a play, you are focusing on what you have to do,” Pattison said. “When something like what happened at Virginia Tech happens, it kind of brings new life into the play. I’m not saying that it is a good thing, but as an actor I understand my role a little bit more and rediscovered a kind of respect for the seriousness of the situation.”

Although the cast is using cap guns and not real firearms, the weapons are kept locked up because of their striking similarity to actual ones. Both Pattison and Sibert will use a rifle on stage where the barrel has been stuffed and a pistol that fires caps. 

“I get out of rehearsal and I’m always in a little bit of a funk,” Pattison said. “I need to go home and take a shower and wash myself off. When I’m done I just feel like I need to hug everybody.”