In the wake of school shootings at Virginia Tech last April and in Cleveland, Ohio, two weeks ago, the Thomson High School Competitive Drama class is performing a one-act drama addressing the effects of school violence.
Bang, Bang You're Dead! was written by American Playwright William Mastrosimone in response to an incident at his own child's school where a random search revealed a student with a gun.
"It's a very intense play," said Miranda Murphey, the language arts teacher directing the drama. "It is not a play where the audience is laughing, or where people will go home smiling. ... It is, in a sense, a tragedy."
The plot follows a student who is teased at school until "he just kind of snaps," according to Ms. Murphey. After making threats, the student is expelled from school and taken to a psychotherapist by his parents Even though those in authority followed all the proper measures, the student shoots and kills five classmates.
Reminiscent of Charles Dickens' The Christmas Carol, Ms. Murphey said the victims come back to haunt their killer and enlighten him on the seriousness of his behavior. The 40-minute play uses a cast of 14 students with three crew members, no props and few costumes.
"It's just raw acting. It's all about the dialogue," said senior Jerrica Bell, who plays the part of the killer's girlfriend. "Yes, it's dark. But that's the way you wake people up... It's definitely demanding and hard work, but it's worth it."
On his website, Mr. Mastrosimone said he offers the play free to high schools in hopes of instigating discussion among students and changing possible violence into constructive, non-violent behavior. Even before hitting the stage at Thomson High, the play seems to be working its intended purpose.
"It has changed drastically how I act," said Jamel Jones, a senior who is one of the crew members. "Now when I see somebody picking on another person, usually it's like a person who is different because they have special abilities, then I try to stop it and stick up for the person being picked on."
The class performed the play at Harlem High on Oct. 13 for the Harlemfest, and in the Monroe Kimbrel Gardens of the Watson Brown Foundation last Tuesday. They also will perform it at the regional one act play competition on Oct. 29 at Georgia Southern University.
"This is my first year with this class," Ms. Murphey said. "But they are so versatile that they have done comedies in the past, and then this is a little bit more darker and edgier. They have done well with it."
Ms. Murphey said the public is invited to the performance at 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 1, in the THS auditorium.