Acting for Columbine
Chico Cabaret and area high-schoolers collaborate for commentary on campus violence
To begin to understand the significance of Bang, Bang, You’re Dead, written by William Mastrosimone, you need to know about the mandatory rules he has placed on productions of his play: They must have no budget and all-amateur casts and be followed by open discussions.
His play was performed four nights only last week (March 24-27) at the Chico Cabaret. The cast was made up of high-school students from around the Chico area (and teens attending Butte College), which was appropriate, as the play deals with the topic of school shootings. Afterwards, director Phil Ruttenberg facilitated a discussion among the audience members and cast members.
True to its vision, the final production, while lacking some polish, was a chilling look into the mind of a homicidal maniac. Providing such a portrait is not the ultimate goal of Bang, Bang, You’re Dead, however. Mastrosimone’s play is just a theatrical device to open up a dialogue between young and old people, students and teachers and the “in” crowd and the Goth/metal/D&D nerds. And therein lies the rub.
The most noticeable thing about the open discussion conducted after the play was that the conversation seemed to be dominated by adults, which was ironic, as a central point of the play is that the youth do not have an effective voice in our culture. The second thing that was obvious, from the adults’ point of view, was that blame needed to be placed for school shootings. This game of “point the finger” wagged across the board and pointed at the media (film, TV, “those electronic games"), teachers and parents.
When it was the students’ turn to talk, that was when things seemed the bleakest. With school hallways filled with young adults who are "stressed out and depressed," we can only imagine what the future holds. Thank God we have people like Chico High student Alyssa Higgs, who had the courage to bring the play to the attention of the magnanimous Ruttenbergs, directors of the Chico Cabaret. Theater that opens up dialogue among community members is an awesome thing, but with the problems that were outlined in just this one evening, Chico (in addition to most every town in the country) is in dire need of more discussion.