Cal Lutheran's 'columbinus' is festival pick

Delayed by Borderline shooting, public shows slated

Students will perform the play about the 1999 Columbine High School massacre for festival attendees three times on Feb. 14 at the Los Angeles Theatre Center.

Photo: Brian Stethem

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Jan. 23, 2019) California Lutheran University has been invited to stage “columbinus” at the Region VIII Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, a particularly meaningful honor after the Borderline shooting rocked the campus and curtailed the originally scheduled public performances.

Students will perform the play about the 1999 Columbine High School massacre for festival attendees three times on Feb. 14 at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. 

Before the festival, the students will present free public performances at 2 and 7 p.m. Feb. 10 in Preus-Brandt Forum on campus. Director Brett Elliott, cast members, and Cal Lutheran psychology and criminal justice faculty will participate in informal discussions with the audience after each show. 

The original performances were canceled as the university community dealt with the Nov. 7 shooting, which took the life of 2018 alumnus Justin Meek at a “College Country Night” attended by about 30 Cal Lutheran students, and the fires that began the next day. Instead, 160 people attended one free invitation-only performance. 

Seven productions were chosen for the festival from among more than 200 in Southern California, Arizona, Guam, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah. Judges will select four to six of the best and most diverse from the eight regional conferences to showcase at the national festival in Washington. This is the fifth time a Cal Lutheran play has been selected for the regional festival.

“The students and the entire artistic staff worked hard to create this production, and it is a special honor to share it with the festival’s 1,000 attendees after the tragedy that our campus, our community and the country have endured,” said Theatre and Dance Department Chair Michael Arndt.

The 2005 drama weaves together police evidence, the shooters’ journals, and interviews with parents, survivors and community leaders to depict the shooting, what led up to it and the aftermath. It examines archetypes of adolescence, drawing on nationwide interviews with high school students. 

In preparation for the production, the students watched documentaries on the tragedy, researched the shooters’ mental health problems and learned how the shooting changed high school culture. The intensity of the play, which features hate speech and graphic descriptions of violence, was difficult for them, but they felt the message was important. That feeling increased after Borderline. Counselors met with the cast and crew, many of whom knew Meek and survivors and some of whom evacuated or helped others during the fires, and they attended rehearsals and the private performance to help them process their feelings. 

The cast features Clayton Currie of Ventura, Jonathan Irwin of Washington, Victoria Karr of Corona, Amber Marroquin of Costa Mesa, Jacob White of Palmdale and Jordan Erickson, Mahyar Mirzazadeh and Gabrielle Reublin of Thousand Oaks.

Tickets are available at CalLutheran.edu/theater. For information, call 805-493-3452.

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