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Art & About: 'Columbinus'.

Personal struggles overlooked by everyone

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

The Acrosstown Repertory Theatre's production of Columbinus with performances continuing through April 23 should be required viewing for all middle school and high school teenagers, their parents, teachers, school administrators, health professionals, neighbors, and any and all civic minded individuals.

If you are looking for a good example of the phrase, 'It takes a village,' this play demonstrates the need for community-wide attentiveness to raising our children.

 

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This powerful play written by Stephen Karah and PJ Paparelli documents the struggle and perceived torment modern day youths encounter almost daily in growing up, 'differently than the other kids.'

First time ART Director Susan Christophy does a masterful job of filling the dark, bare, somber stage with eight teenagers all with personal and personality problems that fill the auditorium with high school anxiety, temper, emotions, and youthful contemplation of a world in which they are very uncomfortable.

Screenwriter PJ Paparelli describes, as theatrical discussion, Columbine high school students unfolding the story of their daily mission of making it through high school and their teenage years.

 

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The first act of Columbinus identifies the characters with light sketches of their personalities that brought back many memories from my teenage years of the kids, friends, groups in school with the usual popular and not so popular niches and the hope of co-existing with other students.

My mind dashed back to the role playing that was a familiar activity in my school years.

I saw a clear irony in these young actors pretending to be students acting out scenes from their personal drama.

The actors are tagged with nick names that identify them by their attributes and which reflect social pressures and influences.

All the actors' character interpretations were believable with Jock (Izaiah Moe) convincingly playing the complete athletic student.

Faith (Cameron varvel) was ready to love everyone and seriously work toward unity and happiness.

Perfect (Emma Dieterle) was the popular in-crowd student.

 

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This act was highlighted by each student being completely aware of their own roles in but oblivious to all the others.

Columbinus is a perfect example of less being more. The set design of large, simple, square, white boxes gave the impression of backpacks to the students soul created  Susan Christophy worked.

The students each had there own box holding personal objects that encapsulated their characters externally and internally. The picking up of boxes and shifting them around in unison gave a Greek chorus-like feel to characters revealing their soul to the audience. Bravo Susan Christophy!

It didn't take long for me to feel like I knew these kids up close and personal. Kudos to the Stage Manager (Jacob Goldberger) for moving all of the actors through my vantage point both incrementally and individually.

The story quickly focuses on Freak/Eric Harris (Alexander Christophy) and Loner (Dylan Kleiboid), who are feeling outside the main stream high-school world and becoming introverted and displaced.

The second act chronicles, sometimes uncomfortably, details of the mass murders at Columbine High School 18 years ago with actual documents and recordings.

 

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Columbinus worked on this villager, Mike Sanford, just another high school student. The actors did a fantastic job of describing, acting out, teenagers acting out, figuratively crying for help. I had an eerie sense of association watching the actors pretend to be in circumstances that could have been from my high school years.

As a parent, I had feelings of angst and frustration with my inability to make things correct and to help the students in the play deal with issues we have all experienced at one time or another.

As a community member, I imagined I would have felt extreme despair in failing in my parental objective of being available for troubled children.

Thank you Across Town Repertory Theater, Susan Christophy, and the Columbinus cast and crew for making me stop and think seriously about my role in this village I live in.

Thursday is the anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre resulting in 15 deaths that occurred on April 20, 1999, in Colorado. Columbinus Images courtesy of Aleksandr Kalishman. The Acrosstown Repertory Theatre production of Columbinus continues with final performances Thursday through Sunday. FOLLOW THIS LINK for more information

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