By Dawn Hatfield
GREENVILLE — Darke County Civic Theater (DCCT) proudly presents its first Social Awareness Production, “Bang Bang You’re Dead,” on Saturday June 11 at 7 p.m. and Sunday June 12 at 2 p.m. Performances will take place at Final Bow Warehouse at 116 E. Third Street, Greenville. This performance (recommended for ages 14 and up) will be FREE to the community. Donations will be accepted to help continue arts in the community, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Sandy Hook PROMISE. DCCT is a non-profit 501(c)(3).
“Bang Bang You’re Dead,” by William Mastrosimone, is described on DCCT website as “a visceral examination of the culture that can breed violence in contemporary society, and a heartbreaking introspection at the aftermath of that violence. Alone in the darkness, teenager Josh is woken by a flashlight and a voice asking, “Why me?” Quickly and to his confusion, four other voices join – these five characters are Josh’s victims from his shooting rampage in the school cafeteria that morning. They have returned to him and force him to confront and relive the events that led to that moment: his first hunting experience, heartbreak when Katie ‘dumped him for Michael,’ bullying voices from school, his violent threat on a chalkboard, being expelled from school, and finally being forced to see a psychotherapist. He chooses to take his aggression, anger, and depression out on others. Ultimately, Josh realizes what he has done and its finality, is left with one final prayer: ‘Oh, God.’”
To date, there have been 2,031 school shootings in the U.S. since 1970, where a school shooting is defined by the Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS) as “each and every instance a gun is brandished, is fired, or a bullet hits school property for any reason, regardless of the number of victims, time of day, or day of week.” Last year, 2021, was by far the highest on record with 249 incidents. Currently, for 2022, there have been 114 shootings already recorded.
With statistics like these, it is not surprising Director Christopher Chapa felt moved to stage a social awareness performance with the DCCT cast. Although this will be the first performance of its kind for DCCT, Chapa previously directed social awareness performances at Greenville High School.
When asked what message he hopes to communicate to the audience, Chapa explained, “Social Awareness — unfortunately, there are school shootings every day that we don’t even hear about anymore because it’s so common. This is still a serious topic that should be talked about.”
Assistant Director, Mariah Edwards, added, “Obviously, the shooting part of the performance is such a big deal, but part of the show is that Josh (main character) was bullied… so, not only is this the issue but this is why it happened. We’re showing how bullying is an even bigger deal because it could lead to something like that, which is something that a lot of people don’t think of. They think ‘oh, he was crazy’ — no, he wasn’t.”
Chapa said, “The show is cool like that. You really see the breakdown, step-by-step, how [main character, Josh] got to the point of doing what he did… Knowing the warning signs is a big goal too. You start to see things that maybe you wouldn’t have thought about.”
The gravity of the topic was palpable even during early rehearsals. Cast members were very knowledgeable and well-versed in the history of school shootings in our country.
Chapa offered, “Our cast is doing presentations on different school shootings. If we want the community to be aware, we feel like we, as a cast, should be aware too.” Their presentations will also be showcased in the Warehouse during the performance for audience members to view.
The primarily young cast members were asked how they felt about doing this show and why it is needed. They eagerly pointed to the frequency of school shootings and how mass shootings have become part of American life. Even while students today realize anything can happen, many still don’t take the topic seriously and joke about violence every day the cast members agreed.
Several spoke of the importance of acknowledging the need for mental healthcare and de-stigmatizing it. One cast member highlighted the problems with bullying saying, “I’ve seen it in my school so much. People see it and don’t say anything.” Watching for early warning signs that someone is suffering and may need help was an important reason given for DCCT’s interest in presenting “Bang Bang You’re Dead.”
Others pointed out how busy parents are in today’s world and how so many kids feel unheard. In the play, Josh tries to talk to his parents, but they don’t seem to listen. Another added, “This show really shines a light on the fact you can’t reverse death after it’s done; there’s no going back.”
Chapa concluded, “It doesn’t make you sympathize with the shooter, but it does help you understand him.”
On a lighter note, DCCT will host Annie Oakley Melodrama auditions later in May, with performances in July, and auditions for their next family production in December, with performances in March. Performance and audition information is available at www.darkecountycivictheater.org.
For detailed statistics on school shootins in the U.S., visit the K-12 School Shooting Database www.chds.us/ssdb.
Contact Daily Advocate Reporter Dawn Hatfield at 937-569-0066 or [email protected].