By Dawn Hatfield
GREENVILLE — Darke County Civic Theater (DCCT) presented a profound social awareness show June 11 and 12 centered around school shootings. On the heels of losing 21 lives in Uvalde, Texas to gun violence just last month, the performance couldn’t have been more timely nor have carried a deeper meaning. Admission was free to the public with a portion of the proceeds donated to Sandy Hook Promise.
Christopher Chapa (DCCT President) and Mariah Edwards directed the show, which demonstrates the descent of a seemingly typical teenager, Josh, into the ever-deeper shadows of his mind – ultimately culminating in a horrific act of violence.
Minimal props, effects, and only a handful of cast members left the audience deeply impacted: Katelyn Conway (Josh), Ryan Bolin (Michael), Livy Wetzel (Katie), Christopher Chapa (Matt), Elizabeth Moss (Jessie), Riley McCartney (Emily), Rylee McMahan (shadow/ensemble), Tiffany Pope (mom/ensemble), Jessica Setser (principal/ensemble), Kylie Voisard (therapist/ensemble), and Georgia Wetzel (dad/ensemble).
Chapa shared his feelings on Facebook, “I have directed ‘Bang, Bang, You’re Dead’ three times and, unfortunately, the message is just as relevant now as it was the first time I directed… This cast and crew persevered and powered through a show that is mentally exhausting, and they spread social awareness in our community. They not only put on two wonderful performances, but they supported one another through a show that was very heavy on all of our hearts.”
Conway, in the starring role, said, “Getting the opportunity to play such a versatile character like Josh had many rewards, like broadening my range in the acting field but did bring tribulations from having to put myself into such an angry and sad mindset at times. This would lead me to feel drained during and after rehearsals. I’m so grateful for the cast keeping things lighthearted and goofy at times, so I could snap out of my character’s mindset and just share laughs with my cast.”
Conway, who was originally cast as one of Josh’s victims, took on the starring role after the original actor chose to step away from it. She said, “The impact of this role came more from the transition of experiencing both sides of the spectrum, going from [playing] the victim to the shooter. Having to reenact being killed in a school shooting led to nightmares and anxiety in my place of school and work. When I got the role of the shooter, those issues became not so prevalent but turned into more an issue of dealing with reliving what those intrusive, depressed, and suicidal thoughts can feel like coming from a survivor of severe mental illness.”
Conway explained she knew she “wanted the challenge of tapping into those emotions and portraying them through this character.” The devoted actor even significantly cut her hair to tap into the role. “Cutting my hair was a big step with my transition into Josh. Getting my hair cut short just felt right to do, so he could be accurately portrayed in the most convincing way.”
With obvious gratitude for the unparalleled efforts of his cast and crew, Chapa said, “We laughed together, we cried together, we poured everything we could into this show, and I couldn’t be more proud. Beyond performing — we stood up for something. We used our voices on a topic that needs to be addressed. We educated ourselves. We bonded as a family, which is what theater is all about in my eyes.”
Chapa said he hopes audience members walked away from the show with an awareness of gun violence in our schools, as well as the ability to recognize warning signs of future gun violence, ending, “We can make a change.”
Visit www.darkecountycivictheater.org or follow Darke County Civic Theater on Facebook for information on upcoming events as well as cast spotlights.
Contact Daily Advocate Reporter Dawn Hatfield @ [email protected] or 937-569-0066.