CMR community participates in controversial performance

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Ginman Robert Rimmer, portrayed by CMR senior Scott Hill, goes on a shooting rampage at his shcool in “American Roulette.”

Shayna Leonard

Gunman Robert Rimmer, portrayed by CMR senior Scott Hill, goes on a shooting rampage at his school in "American Roulette."

SPRINGFIELD ORE., 1998 Freshman Kipland P. Kinkel of Thurstan High School opens fire on his classmates. One person is dead. 23 are wounded. Two bodies found at his home, said to be his parents.

But it is what happened after the shooting that motivated drama teacher Chris Evans to write a play called “American Roulette.”

He was watching the news and his son was standing in front of the television. He was at an angle where it looked like his son was at the school, in the shooting. This terrified Evans.

“I wanted the opportunity to write a show that portrayed what I was seeing,” Evans said. “I never wanted kids to go through that.”

“American Roulette,” which took the CMR stage March 17-19, is an original production about a young man, Robert Rimmer,  who is pushed to the limit. After being laughed at and humiliated by his peers for so long, he decides to do something about it, and his decision is to shoot them. More important, however, is the true message of hope and a sense of a community coming together after a tragedy revealed in the play.

“It’s rough material,” Evans said. It wasn’t difficult getting it approved by the school once the administration, SRO and some faculty sat in on a reading in December 2010.

“It’s given students a chance to try something they haven’t,” he said. “It is educationally different from other sorts of theatre.”

“American Roulette” was written in six months by Evans and a friend, Fredric Hendricks. It has been performed at the University of Montana, Missoula Sentinel High School, and Carroll College. Evans said that each performance gives him a chance to make the show better.

“We’ve adjusted and tweaked it,” he said. “Things are never finished; they are just a work in progress.”

GFPS parent Amy Rattray said she really enjoyed the show. However, it did make an emotional impact on her. Her son, who goes to North Middle School, had gotten bullied just days before the performance. An older boy had called him names and pushed his face in the snow. Rattray said she couldn’t imagine “how kids could do something like that.”

“He had a black eye,” she said. “Stuff like that just breaks a mother’s heart.” She wants parents to be aware that stuff like this really happens.

“Parents don’t want to believe it,” she said. “They put their blinders on.” She also wants kids to be more aware that stuff like this affects others.

Senior and cast member Evan Sherman played the part of Doug Bishop, a history teacher who walked in on the shooting and took the young boy down.

“It was very difficult to play,” Sherman said. “I have never done a serious piece and never experienced something like that.”

Sherman said he really got to know what the characters went through.

“It felt real. It felt like everyone had a good grasp on their character. That felt good,” he said.

Sherman not only participates in drama, but also is an avid member in CMR’s Key Club. He has participated in raising suicide awareness, and says the play really changed his perspective.

“I feel more towards people,” he said. “I want to make people happy, make friends, and just help people.” This is what he wanted others to get out of it as well.

“Hope,” he said. “It’s more about hope than anything. It brings a community and a school together for the future.” He hoped the audience thought it was appropriate for high school theatre, and  he wanted people to understand that “stuff like this really happens.”

Sherman really enjoyed working with his fellow cast and crew members. He said that it was “pretty good” working with them and “helping others with their lines.” He also explained that working with the same people two months straight, it got a little annoying, but he loved it anyway.

“Theatre is changing,” he said. “Get involved.”

Junior Breanna McCracken also believes that people need to be aware and kind to others.

“Everyone is capable of doing this,” she said. “But it can also be stopped. We need to take steps and try to be the best people we can.”

Contrary to Sherman’s character, McCracken said her character “wasn’t difficult” to play because she was “an honest character.” She played the part of Megan Jenkins, one of the students who perish in the play.

“[The play] forces you to look at all the characters without judgment,” she said. “You have to look at Robert as a person.” She explained that Robert and his story is easy for us to look at  and jump to conclusions.

“We all do whether we want to or not,” she said. “We need to be careful about how we influence people.”

McCracken said that she has had experiences, such as fights and arguments, with her own brother, and she is worried how her actions are really influencing him.

“Robert’s story began at home,” she said. “You have to look at the whole life picture, and [a person’s] mental well being.”

Evans hopes his production has done just that. He wrote the play because of his fear for his children’s safety.

“In order to take control of something you’re afraid of, you have to shine a light on it,” Evans said. “I’m not trying to save the world, just my little corner of it. If I can get one kid to talk to a counselor or one kid to say ‘Hi’ to another in the hallway, it changes lives.”