Play staged in New York explores Columbine massacre from shooters’ perspectives

Students evacuated from Columbine H.S. after shootings. April 20, 1999

Students evacuate from Columbine High School after the shootings on April 20, 1999.

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It’s something this community will never forget and now the nation will be reminded of the tragedy at Columbine High School 15 years ago, on the stage.

A play debuting next month; off Broadway; explores the two killers mindsets.

Columbine High School mass shooters, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris come to life in The Erlking’s. The name taken from a German poem found in one of the killer’s journals about the loss of innocence.

"I believe that art and especially theatre should try and tackle those difficult and troubling subjects,” said playwright Nathaniel Shapiro, adding, "The common perception of them was largely inaccurate."

A recent study by Texas State University indicates fame may have played a role in motivating some past mass shooters. The FBI is now asking the media “Don’t Name Them,” in a new campaign.

Shapiro isn’t just naming them. He’s delving into their psyche, using Harris and Klebold’s words from homework, journals and even AOL chatroom conversations. He says he was motivated by his own life experience.

“Columbine is more than a high school, it’s something that has a strong emotional reaction, not just for people in Colorado, but for people across the country and it affected me so much as a child,” Shapiro said.

Emotional reaction is exactly what he’s expecting. "For an individual affected I could definitely see why this would be distasteful, but I think in a larger context this is a conversation this country really needs to have,” Shapiro said.  He says the play isn’t about making money, it was funded by Kickstarter and said it’s very unlikely there will be a profit at all. He said he just wants to make a small difference.

“I certainly don’t think a play will all of a sudden change the world, but I would hope audience members could come away from this play with a new perspective and a desire to maybe reach out to individuals who are troubled.”

This isn’t the first play about the Columbine tragedy, another called Columbinus premiered in 2005. However, that play used excerpts from discussions with parents, survivors and community leaders to tell the tragedy.

Fox31 reached out to several surviving victims and family members of those killed in the massacre. None wanted to go on-camera but all were surprised to hear about the play, one adding he was shocked someone could want to make a profit off tragedy.



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