On Wednesday, two young students and a teacher were injured in a school shooting in South Carolina, according to reports; the same date marked the opening night of Ohio University Theater Division’s play, The Library.
Written by Scott Z. Burns, The Library is a compelling drama about gun violence in America and the effect it has on the people involved and the narratives shaped after a school shooting.
As the play’s description forecasts, it is not the happy-go-lucky kind of show to go to just to take your mind off things and get a few laughs in during a tough workweek. The play showcases a timely reality of what American schools must now have a plan for.
Since 2013, there have been at least 196 school shootings in America – averaging nearly one a week according to everytownresearch.org. The familiar headline of school shootings across the country is exactly how the play beings, opening with a dramatic sequence of news headlines quickly stacking up with the sound of news anchors reporting the unfortunate and familiar breaking news with increasing volume. Without missing a beat, the tragedy of what happened that day in the library begins and it remains a gripping emotional journey throughout.
The setting is simple, five six-foot long tables and several wooden chairs take up about half of the stage while a door reading “AV-06” can be seen behind them. While the props stay the same throughout, the stage does allow transitions in the storyline between a hospital, an interrogation room and a church, but lined around the bottom of the stage are several books, offering themselves as a reminder of the play’s focus. Sound effects, such as a heart monitor, voice overs of doctors making requests during surgery and a church choir, all help in ensuring the setting is established quickly.
Subtle enhancers throughout the production lend to the chilling tone of the play, like the shooter, whom the audience learns to be Marshall Bauer (Samuel Fisher), staring at his victim, Caitlin Gabriel (Rachel Gaunce), while she lies in a hospital bed, speaking with her parents for the first time since the shooting.
Caitlin Gabriel (Gaunce) is the star of the play and she finds herself in a whirlwind of emotions and accusations that lead to the fast-paced depiction of story telling in the media today. That focus on the media’s quick reporting and search for antagonists in breaking news acts as an underlying theme throughout the production. If nothing else, the play can surely lend itself to a discussion about jumping to conclusions and playing the blame game in times of terror and tragedy, a lesson the country surely should learn.
Wednesday’s opening night had only a few bumps and bruises, but remained a telling and captivating experience throughout. The Library is an artistic take on an unfortunate reality many Americans have faced, and it is sure to leave audience members impacted and in need of more tissues.
“The Library” will be showing October 1,5, & 8 at 8 p.m. at the Forum Theater. Tickets are free for Ohio University students and $10 for general admission and $7 for seniors and students.