WATERLOO – A powerful play about the aftermath of a school shooting is set to open on the Waterloo Community Playhouse stage on Jan. 19.
The show will be performed in the intimate black-box McElroy Theatre in the WCP Walker Building and runs through Jan. 29.
In writing the play’s script, filmmaker Scott Z. Burns was partially inspired by the 1999 Columbine (Colorado) High School shootings.
This production focuses on 16-year-old Caitlin Gabriel (Julia Corbett), who was shot and seriously injured in the shooting. The rumors begin swirling that Caitlin was the one who, out of fear, told the shooter where to find other students hiding in a library closet. Now she must defend herself against a different kind of attacker.
“It’s a wonderfully put-together play which speaks to people on an emotional, gut level. Caitlin’s name is suddenly synonymous with someone who may have caved in a moment of weakness. She is suffering from her injury and survivor’s guilt, but now must deal with these accusations,” explained Greg Holt, WCP artistic director.
In the narrative, it is revealed that Caitlin was something of a wild child and may have known the shooter. She is perceived as a liar and coward, while another student, Joy, died at the hands of the gunman while leading other students in prayers and is considered a martyr.
Julia Corbett, a senior at Cedar Falls High School, is portraying Caitlin.
“I really like the character of Caitlin, and I think the play has an important message, that it’s important to know how your words affect others. Everyone has had their words twisted, or an experience where people thought you said or did something that isn’t true. Her life is torn apart,” Corbett said.
Even her parents, played by Joe Frenna and Elena Cafaro, may not believe her denials.
“It’s all very raw for a high school student trying to figure out who she is to experience everyone doubting her, talking about her. Her parents want her to admit guilt. It seems no one is supporting her,” said Holt.
He ran a few scenes from the show in a workshop with high school students who were intrigued and wanted to know how it ends. “That’s a good sign that we grabbed them. The play doesn’t tell you what to think, and it doesn’t take sides. Drama can be an important tool to get insight into whatever a particular demographic is thinking. In this play, there’s teenage angst, family turmoil, a chance to get a different perspective on a terrible situation.
“We react in a visceral way to news of a school shooting, and the play gives us more of an understanding of how people cope in the aftermath,” he said.
The show has characteristics of a movie screenplay with 18 short scenes and runs 1 ½ hours. There will be no intermission.
Dan Waterbury has written an original score for “The Library,” and lighting designer Scott Schuster has created special lighting effects for the minimal set.
A special free performance for educators, counselors and first responders will be presented Jan. 24. In addition, WCP will tour the show to Cedar Falls High School and Waterloo’s East High School on Jan. 29.