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The Boston Globe

Theater & art

Raw look at Columbine may strike close to home

For a drama about one of the most infamous school shootings in US history, “columbinus” is remarkably unbloody. The play, which is being staged by ArtsEmerson for 10 performances starting Sept. 17, documents every grim detail of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colo., in which teenagers Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris murdered 12 students and a teacher before committing suicide. But despite the subject matter, there isn’t one shot fired in “columbinus.”

P J Paparelli, who co-wrote “columbinus” with Stephen Karam, never wanted it any other way. “We didn’t want this to be about shock value,” he says. Even so, the play’s second act, which recounts the rampage, still manages to be shocking. It’s part staged reinterpretation, part documentary. Photos of the two killers are projected above the stage, and a recording of a 911 call from a woman trapped in the school library is played almost in its entirety. As for the murders, those details are conveyed mostly with words. “We let the victims’ testimony come forward,” Paparelli says. Dylan and Eric “are turned away from the audience in the shooting scene. We didn’t want it to be about them.”

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