The Erlkings (Die Erlkönige) explores the inner lives of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the perpetrators of the Columbine High School Massacre. The play uses real quotes from researched material left by the boys- journal writings, school assignments, chat room conversations, home videos - and combines it with original scenes, dramatizing the glimpses of recorded information that they left behind.The Erlkings (Die Erlkönige) posits that insight can be found into the violent American psyche that continues to rear its ugly head in our schools, through the dramatic exploration of the emotions and encounters experienced by the two boys.
WHERE YOU COME IN:
The $30,000 we are raising have been allocated for two expenditures: the cast and the physical production. That means paying the actors, buying the costumes/makeup/props, building the set--basically everything that will be on stage! So your help will not only go a long way, it will make our play come to life!
NOTE FROM THE PLAYWRIGHT:
I was nine years old on April 20th, 1999, the day that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold committed a school shooting. It was a watershed moment for anyone my age who spent their time inside an American school which was now, even in a staid suburb like Littleton, a potential shooting range. Dylan and Eric terrified children and adults alike because we recognized in them people that we all knew to be around us. Though many would be too ashamed to admit it, even as a nine year old I knew that the weird kid in the corner was no longer just quiet—these people were suspect and given a wider berth, socially, for fear of what they would do.
I responded by writing a poem. It was set in one of Columbine’s classrooms, told from the perspective of a student hiding under his or her desk. I recall the student reflecting on the screams of victims in other rooms echoing down the halls, and that the poem ends with the question, “When will my scream come?”
The Columbine shooting was a remarkable event in that the local television crews were on the scene before the SWAT teams. It was on every station, and America helplessly watched it happen. As cameras stayed fixed on the school’s windows, the nation learned about what was going on inside from the rumors that escaped students were repeating in interviews: boys from a group called the Trenchcoat Mafia were taking cues from the Marilyn Manson songs they listened to and targeting jocks, Christians, and persons of color in a planned shooting. Of course, none of this is true. Eric and Dylan were not part of the “Trenchcoat Mafia,” they hated Marilyn Manson, it was a failed bombing that turned into a shooting when their fuses wouldn’t go off, and Eric and Dylan just wanted to kill as many people as possible. In fact, Eric and Dylan were well aware that what they planned to do was “bad” (after all, they thought of themselves as “bad,” too).
I started researching Columbine after the Sandy Hook Shooting. Like just about everyone, I had a shocked reaction to the horror of Newtown, but was disappointed when I began hearing the rhetoric surrounding the perpetrator, Adam Lanza. The way we talked about Adam took me back to Eric and Dylan: these were “monsters” and “no one could understand how they could do something like this.” In a word, they were “inhuman.” This assessment is willfully ignorant. It stems from a mind too afraid to admit how close we are to these people, and how incredibly “human” their behavior actually is. Open a history book if that claim is doubted. Man’s inhumanity towards man is very human.
We do ourselves, our children, and disturbed individuals like Adam, Eric, and Dylan, a horrible disservice when we speak of them in that dismissive way. There is something about the Young American Male and the culture that surrounds him that has led boy after boy to the same conclusion as to what they have to do to deal with the pain of living their lives. There is some mistake we keep making, some lesson that we teach but fail to see violent result of, some opportunity to help them that we shirk. We will never prevent another Columbine by distancing ourselves from those who would perpetrate such an act and by refusing, out of fear, to understand them. This does not mean we have to forgive them. This does not mean we have to empathize with them. But with these kinds of mass killings becoming somewhat of an epidemic, refusing to understand their causes is akin to refusing to research a cure for a deadly disease. The cure lies somewhere in the minds of boys like Eric and Dylan. We have to open our ears to them: to hear them, when before we ignored them; to make them speak, when in life they were silent.
Eric and Dylan wanted that. They left volumes of material to be found, much of it lying out for the police to find along with their taped confession. Through the released FBI report (containing diary entries, homework with teacher’s feedback, AOL chat room conversations, and more) and pirated home videos online, I was able to find what it was that they were trying, but failed, to express. When it came time to write about them, I realized I could do no better than to edit the words they wrote and largely kept to themselves, and to create my own version of the external lives that in affect sublimated all those feelings.
I hate Eric and Dylan sometimes. Especially Eric, whose searing anger towards all people other than himself and a couple friends disgusts me. I am so mad at them for what they did and for what they could have done with their lives instead. Other times I want to run away from them. I want to forget all the pain I read in these boys’ messy handwriting. I want to forget that they were obsessed by love, but are only known for hate. And I want to forget that any man could be so wrathful that he could shut off that voice that begs him not to murder passionlessly. But in both those moments, I know that I am wrong. Because if I am angry or disengaged, I could never help them change. I know that I am falling into the same trap of wanting to distance myself, of wanting to deny them, of wanting to turn my head and avoid seeing the familiar gleam in the eye staring back at me from their yearbook photos. What they needed was to be reached. They were too afraid to do it themselves; others were likely too afraid or self-interested to take a step towards them. But I hope that The Erlkings comes close.
Saheem Ali (Director): Saheem has directed off-Broadway, regionally and extensively in New York City. Selected credits include: Farhad (Inner Voices), Vital Signs (Riant Theatre), Marisol (Barnard College), The Wild Party (Columbia University), Romeo & Juliet (Commonwealth Shakespeare Company) and Spring Awakening (Northeastern University). Saheem has assistant directed on Broadway and regionally. Selected credits: Broadway–A Free Man of Color (LCT) The Normal Heart (Golden); Off-Broadway– Angels in America(Signature NYC); Giant (Signature Arlington, VA); Romania, Kiss Me (Play Company), The Miser (American Repertory Theatre), The Ballroom (Theatre de la Jeune Lune), Wintertime (Guthrie). He is the co-author of the musical Goddess, which was accepted to the 2013 O’Neill Musical Theater Conference, where he also directed the workshop. He is the recipient of the Shubert Fellowship, the New York Theatre Workshop Directing Fellowship and the SDCF Gielgud Directing Fellowship. Saheem holds an MFA in Directing from Columbia University.
Nathaniel Sam Shapiro (Playwright): Nathaniel was born in New York City. He began writing for theater in high school, graduated from Brown University in 2012 with a degree in Literary Arts. He completed his Masters in Dramatic Writing at NYU Tisch School of the Arts this past Spring, where he wrote and workshopped The Erlkings. Fifteen years after Columbine, with school shootings continuing to proliferate nation-wide, he has turned to writing about this watershed moment in American social history. This will be his first produced play in New York.
Rashad V. Chambers (Co-Producer): Rashad is the Founder and President of Esquire Entertainment, a boutique entertainment company that specializes in talent management and production. As a producer, Rashad has developed and produced various theatrical productions and staged readings in New York. His most recent production is a new musical, Goddess, which was recently seen at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Conference. Rashad’s first feature film, True to the Heart, won four awards at the Long Island International Film Expo and was an official selection at the Big Apple Film Festival. Rashad attended Morehouse College where he graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration. He also earned his JD and MBA degrees from The Ohio State University. A licensed attorney in New York and Connecticut, Mr. Chambers’ professional affiliations include: Active Theater Company Board of Directors, Character Studies Productions Board of Directors, The Broadway League Producer Development Program, the New York State Bar Association, and the American Bar Association.
Lisa Dozier King (General Manager): Lisa has general managed more than fifty professional productions as well as hundreds of special events in New York City. Current Off Broadway: Breakfast with Mugabe, Final Analysis, F#%king Up Everything, Sistas the Musical. Recent Off Broadway: Bronte: A Portrait of Charlotte, Ten Chimneys, The Duchess of Malfi (Red Bull Theater), How to be a Good Italian Daughter (Cherry Lane). Other favorite projects: Leave the Balcony Open (3LD), Milk (New Georges, HERE Arts Center), The Diary of a Teenage Girl (3LD), Into the Hazard (Henry 5) (Walkerspace), Stormy Weather (Pasadena Playhouse: asst. director), The Rise and Fall of Annie Hall (Theatre Row/ Stage 13), To Paint the Earth (NYMF), I Come For Love (NYMF), SAKA LA (45 Bleecker/Oslo Elsewhere), Jeffrey Hatcher’s Murderers (Emelin), The Piper (NYMF), Surface to Air (Symphony Space), The Polish Play (Walkerspace), Behind the Limelight (NYMF), Jeff Daniels’ Apartment 3A, The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde (NYMF) Previously, she was the associate producer at Symphony Space and on the artistic staff at Manhattan Theatre Club where she workedon such productions as Doubt and Reckless. She has also been on staff at the New 42nd Street, Symphony Space, American Repertory Theatre and New York Stage & Film. Lisa is the general managerfor the National Alliance for Musical Theatre’s Festival of New Musicals. Lisa is also the director of the BFA theatre management program at the University of Miami.
Doss Freel (Scenic Designer): Recent designs include Voices of Swords (Off Broadway) at the Soho Rep, The Eggs by Adam Rapp; Meantime at New York University's Shubert Theatre; The Eden Project at Theatre for the New City; Then She Dies at the End at the New Ohio Theatre. Region credits include Chicago starring Sally Struthers at the Union Station, KC; Beirut at the Living Room, KC; Kill to Eat (world premier) at the Hangar Theatre, NY; Complete Works of Wm Shkspr Abrdgd Hope Summer Repertory Theatre, MI. Resident designer for Stable Cable Lab Co. Works with Tiffany & Company's Creative Visual Merchandising team. MFA Graduate of New York University.
Michael Thurber (Composer): Thurber is the co-founder and Musical Director of Youtube's most viewed musical collective, CDZA. As a bassist, he has been featured on the Youtube Music Awards, PBS' "From The Top: Live From Carnegie Hall," and NPR's Morning Edition. As a composer, Thurber has written scores for Vanity Fair, BBC America, and College Humor. His musical Goddess was selected for the 2013 Eugene O'Neil Musical Theater Conference. Education: The Julliard School, Interlochen Arts Academy.
Lux Haac (Costume Designer): Haac is a New York-based designer for both stage and film. Her most recent credits include: The Qualification of Douglas Evans (directed by James Kautz), Enter at Forest Lawn (directed by Jay Stull), Violation (directed by Jevonne Bowman, and The Seagull (directed by Richard Feldman). Haac holds a MFA in design for stage and film from NYU/Tisch.
Katy Atwell (Lighting Design): Recent credits include Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Swing (Martha's Vineyard Playhouse), Accidents Waiting to Happen (Stable Cable Lab Co), Gideon's Knot (Bridge Rep of Boston), Pacific Overtures (Boston University Theatre). Assisting credits include: To The Bone (Cherry Lane Studio), Subverted (Shetler Studios), Sweeny Todd in Concert at Lincoln Center. She works at the BAM Fisher Building and has her MFA in Lighting Design from Boston University.
ABOUT THE THEATER:
Theatre Row is located in Midtown Manhattan, on 42nd Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues. The name comes from the six Off-Broadway theatres that line the south side of the street. The complex was built in the year 2000, heralding the arrival of prestigious off- Broadway theaters in the heart of the theatre district. For The Erlkings we have booked The Beckett Theater, which is the second largest house in the complex. At ninety nine seats, it provides the perfect balance between intimacy and the theatrical scale required for the play. We are scheduled for a five week run in The Beckett beginning November 9th, 2014.
Risks and challenges
Our team is made up of both seasoned professionals and fresh faces. So whenever any issue arises (no production is without its bumps along the way), we'll have both experience and new thinking to rely on. We all collaborate very well and have already addressed problems head on and solved them. We are 100% dedicated to making this a fantastic production, and know that no obstacle is too hard to overcome and alleviate.
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