‘columbinus’ Addresses an American Tragedy

“columbinus” shines light on one dark underside of modern American history: high school shootings. Directed by Derek P. Speedy ’18, this play will run at Farkas Hall from Dec. 1 to 3 and explores the potential for teen cruelty and its consequences through a number of high school archetypes. From the stereotypical jock to the unheralded nerd, the play’s first act dramatizes the social dynamics of high school life and their effects upon the teenage psyche.

The second act takes a turn as it proceeds to retell the events leading to the 1996 Columbine High School massacre, one of the deadliest and most notorious school shootings in U.S. history. With gun violence as pressing an issue as ever in the United States, Producer David J. Lynch ’20 says, “Harvard’s theater community has acknowledged that ‘columbinus’ is one of the hardest shows to ever come here.”

Usually a musical actor, Speedy undertakes his first full-scale directorial role in “columbinus” for his senior thesis for Theater, Dance & Media. After reading the play after his freshman year, Speedy says that he was enthralled by its intensity. Speedy says that the play demands that both director and audience ask difficult questions: “How do we deal with the fact that this show is not only about real people who were killed, but real people who were killed in a way that is extremely relevant in our time?”

Actors Max H. W. Burkholder ’21 and Henry R. Lynch ’20 portray the real-life teen killers, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, respectively. They recognize that Speedy’s direction has allowed them to carefully navigate the thin line between recreation and romanticization in their acting. “We’re very much trying to show who [Klebold and Harris] were as people, but we’re not in any way trying to justify or lessen the horrific things that they did,” Burkholder says. The actors emphasize that the show is not about shocking the audience, but about initiating a conversation about the issues that ultimately led to the Columbine massacre.

“columbinus” hopes to be an intense but respectful retelling of one of the darkest moments in American history.