2017 Viola Award Nominee for Excellence in the Performing Arts 

The Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy (FALA) presented a production most high schools would never dare attempt. The play, columbinus, is based on the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, where 12 students and a teacher were shot and killed by two seniors at the school. FALA believes this is an important play to perform, especially after the Flagstaff community experienced its own episode of school violence.
columbinus showed at the Coconino Center for the Arts on February 11-12, 2016. The actors in the play were all high school students in the Advanced Acting class at FALA. The production was directed by Mike Levin, eight time Viola Nominee and two-time winner (once as an educator and once as an actor). Students Will Reddig and Jesse Haviland played the leads, portraying Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris.

Audience raves:

“Exceptional performance! High school students dealt with difficult material with sensitivity, understanding and talent. The performance stimulated discussion in the community among youth, parents and professionals.”

From the Director, Mike Levin:

“I have directed over 100 productions at FALA. We have tackled difficult material over the years: Dead Man Walking, Frontera, The Laramie Project, Next to Normal. Never has a show been more difficult than columbinus. Never has a cast been braver than those 12 students. What was it? They are very close to the lives of the characters: tormented teenagers.

“I selected the play in response to the Paris attacks in order that we might come to understand a world where gun violence is more and more rampant. When I brought the script to the cast, I said to them if everyone in the room were not 100 percent on board, we would not do it. We read the script and everyone knew we HAD to work on the text.

“I gave them permission: to cry, to talk, to stop rehearsals, to go for walks, to love. It all happened. There is a scene where Freak goes on about how much hatred he has. It’s too much. Rehearsal stopped and I went outside. I believe we rehearsed the library scene a small handful of times: it was too much. And, mercy, we cried together. Many times. We also laughed a lot …. Not so much in Act Two, but in Act One, we laughed. Through the process, I have never experienced a cast that loved each other to that degree. That we journeyed to the heart of darkness in order to love each other and others more.

“I talked with and coached the actors who played the two shooters, Will and Jesse, regularly. To my amazement, they were okay through the process. They did it.

“Just three days before the show, Crystal Miller, a Columbine survivor who was in the library on April 20, 1999, came and talked to FALA. We cried as a school together. And much of the audience cried together at the performances. Then we went into the world and were a little changed. Catharsis.

“I constantly push to the young artists toward greatness. When I sit and watch the productions with an audience, I am able to objectively see the performances for what they are. Columbinus was a daring play by a brave, hard-working cast, and coupled with Grace Kennedy’s stunning visuals, it was a breathtaking show.

“Even now, months later, when I think about the 12 actors in the room and the work they did, I get teary-eyed. That work. They rocked the sauce.”

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