School shootings have left an ugly and indelible impression on the United States. This week, we speak with Pittsboro’s Tammy Matthews about the play “columbinus,” which she directs and is …
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School shootings have left an ugly and indelible impression on the United States. This week, we speak with Pittsboro’s Tammy Matthews about the play “columbinus,” which she directs and is appearing in theaters throughout the area.
Matthews has more than 50 years of experience in theater. She attended the prestigious Goodman School of Drama and holds a Bachelor of Arts in both theater and elementary education and a Master’s degree in education. “Miss Tammy,” as she’s called by her performers, is the co-owner and artistic director of Pittsboro Youth Theater, The Social Justice Theater of the Carolinas and Chatham Community Players. She worked in theater in Chicago in various capacities before becoming a teacher. Since then, she has staged many performances in schools, camps and after-school programs across the country and can now be found directing at least 15 shows a year in Pittsboro.
The play “columbinus” debuted at CFTA last year. What was the response?
The audience was awestruck. The general response was one of great admiration for the amazing talent of these young actors mixed with grief for those who died, and anger over the lack of change in the last 20 years.
Here is a response from an audience member who came to the Durham show over the weekend: “This is a powerful portrayal of the dynamics behind teen violence against selves and others. It is not for young kids, but all mental health professionals, teachers and grad students will benefit. Upcoming performances are scheduled in Carrboro, Raleigh, and maybe others. School employees have free admission, but I found it well worth the $10.”
What makes this play so unique, and different? And what can viewers expect?
This play is raw. The beginning is about eight archetypal characters. Each has emotional issues. Each could have become the shooters. Through a series of events, two did become the shooters. The second half is more factual. There is no real-time reenactment of the shooting event at Columbine High School. But the events leading up to the shooting, during and after come from transcripts of recordings and first hand reports. It is particularly gripping because it is performed by high school students who live with the fear of school shootings every day.
Now the play is set to be performed in Carrboro and Raleigh, as well as in Pittsboro, in the coming weeks. How did all that come about?
Our original intent was to reach as many people as possible to spread the message of this play. Manbites Dog Theater gave us a grant to do the play in all four counties in the Triangle. Being located in Pittsboro, we don’t really know how to market to Orange, Durham and Wake counties. Any help spreading the word would be greatly appreciated. We really want school employees to come. They live this reality as well. So, we are offering the play free to all school employees!
Social Justice Theater of the Carolinas will perform the play live on these dates, at these locations:
• Feb. 8 at The ArtsCenter, Carrboro (2 and 6 p.m.)
• March 7 at Sweet Bee Theater, Pittsboro (4 and 7 p.m.)
• March 8 at Sweet Bee Theater (2 and 6 p.m.)
• March 22 at Burning Coal Theater, Raleigh (2 and 6 p.m.)
Why is the message of “columbinus” so important right now?
There were 45 school shootings in the first 46 weeks of 2019. That’s almost one a week! Of those, 32 were in K-12 schools. One shooting was at UNC-Charlotte where two people were killed and four were wounded. This was in our own back yard!
No matter how many drills are done or locks are put on schools, our kids are not safe. Something needs to happen on a systemic basis. Remember, if there had been locks and drills at Columbine, the two shooters would have been part of them. They were smart. They would have been able to get around those procedures. We need to make a shift as a society. The phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child” has become cliche’ but it’s true. Each “village” needs to step up and do something! We need solutions that everyone can be a part of not just the politicians.
How can people find out more?
and listen to the podcast that we did with RDU onstage at