South Texas College theater production revisits first school shooting

McALLEN – Nearly 20 years ago, a mass shooting occurred at a high school in Littleton, Colorado, that has since caused a domino effect across the country.

On April 20, 1999, student’s lives at Columbine High School were changed forever as two students went on a shooting rampage, killing 12 students and one teacher before killing themselves.

This weekend South Texas College theater students presented “Columbinus,” a two-hour unique production reenacting the devastating events of that day and how it possibly could have been prevented.

Julissa Rodriguez, theater director at PSJA Memorial Early College High School and dual enrollment drama instructor for South Texas College, said the project began in August after attending a conference about what we do and don’t know about mental illness.

“I think throughout the entire year, it’s been in my head and when Jason (Rodriguez) scheduled this time for us to direct a play, I told Victor (Santos), hey, I want to do something that deals with mental illness,” Rodriguez said. “With everything that has been going on and not even a few months ago, Santa Fe was affected by a school shooting and right before that, Feb. 14, the Parkland shooting.”

Santos, Rodriguez’s co-director wrote a script and with Rodriguez’s approval the action began.

“I’m not doing this to shock people. This happened 20 years ago and I was a high school senior and didn’t think I’d have to worry about it ever again,” Rodriguez said. “Since then on, it’s happened one time after another; Virginia tech, I was in college at that time and when it happened at UT (University of Texas at Austin) and now as an educator it’s always in the back of our mind and it’s still something that we haven’t been able to stop and protect our children.”

The play centers around the various personalities that make up a typical high school. Student personalities such as the freak, the loner, the prep and the jock make up the cast, along with school administrators, guidance counselors and teachers. The interactions between them all show affects of bullying.

“The play really shows overall what needs to change is us and how we view each other, and how instead of seeing somebody who dresses differently or has too many piercings or as a scary figure, who is just a human being and also trying to survive in this world,” she said. “This world isn’t easy on anybody.”

The play also detailed the building of a bomb and the breakdown of how the shooting occurred and the aftermath. It weaves together the students’ experiences in coming into contact with the shooters or knows friends that are now deceased.

“As we were directing this, I wanted to be sensitive about what we were doing and have a sensitivity about it because of whose going to be in the audience, students, parents and teachers and the community that has to worry will this happen to us,” Rodriguez said. “I didn’t want it up in their face and say this can happen to us, it’s more of we need to be aware of how we treat each other and in-order to be a true community, we have to be open-minded and welcome anything, anyone and everyone different and let them in.”

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What: South Texas College Theatre Presents: Columbinus

When: 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: South Texas College, Cooper Center for Communication Arts, 3201 W. Pecan Blvd McAllen.

Cost: General admission $5

For more information, please call: (956) 872-2301

Parental discretion is advised.