Orange County

Carrboro High School production opens in shadow of Santa Fe, Texas, school shooting

Carrboro High School junior Mia Spadavecchio reads from "A Poem for Sandy Hook," Friday night during the production of "A Night for the Fight Against Gun Violence."
Carrboro High School junior Mia Spadavecchio reads from "A Poem for Sandy Hook," Friday night during the production of "A Night for the Fight Against Gun Violence."

For the students in Carrboro High School's "A Night for the Fight Against Gun Violence," Friday will be a day they always remember.

They will remember it because the opening of their show coincided with another school shooting.

Ellanya Atwater and Alex Ferris, two of the seven student producers, had planned the show long before the tragedy in Santa Fe, Texas, in which a 17-year-old opened fire at a Houston-area high school, killing 10 people.

It was the nation's deadliest such attack since the massacre in Florida that gave rise to a campaign by teens for gun control and that inspired the Carrboro High students to act.

"We decided to do the production after Parkland," Atwater said. "Our company, Savvy Productions, we wanted to talk about real issues because this is a year we can no longer hide or push things off and avoid them.

"This is what we're passionate about. This is what we care about. This is an issue in our community we need to focus on."

The show was a collection of short plays and readings about guns and gun violence that were selected because of their relevancy to school shootings.

"Coming into this play we knew we were dealing with a serious subject," said Euel Gebreselassie, who read a portion of "The Pen Instead of the Gun" by Yvette Heliger. "We were dealing with something that needed attention. We took it very seriously and with what happened today it goes to show what we were trying to portray in the play."

Lyon Teesdale took a step out of his comfort zone portraying a gun-shop owner in a scene from the play "The Next Time."

"It was a complete change of mindset getting into the character," Teesdale said. "I took a step back and thought about what it must be like to be a gun-rights advocate. I had to think about being in their shoes and how he got to this point. I'm not the most anti-gun person, but I do think there needs to be some regulations."

Mia Spadavecchio read "A Poem for Sandy Hook." She said participating in the production was important.

"If anything, it was more significant," Spadavecchio said. "Obviously, we knew we were doing the show but I didn't know about the shooting until I got to school. It's a hard topic to deal with but it was more appropriate given the circumstances. It's time for everybody to take notice of what is going on and for it it stop."

The play closed with a short film made by the students that documented the two school walkouts: one a month after the Parkland shooting and the other on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting in Colorado.

Ferris and Atwater were in class Friday morning making last-minute edits to the film when they first heard about the latest shooting. That work was abandoned. They quickly regrouped and re-edited as more details emerged from Texas.

"I think the first thought was how shockingly relevant it is," Ferris said. "Obviously, we know this is a problem and it is still happening but to have it happen on the day of our show is kind of incredible. We were still working on the film, and I had to add in a portion addressing the tragedy in Santa Fe."

Ferris said that section of the film was amended three times before they made their final cut prior to showtime.

"It's crazy how we have become so desensitized to it," Ferris said. "This isn't new or surprising."

Atwater was matter of fact.

"I think frustration was really my first reaction," Atwater said. "I cannot grasp the concept of how many school shootings there have been. We come to school, and school systems are trying to figure out how to get students engaged. But students aren't paying attention to it because they are afraid to come to school. I can't tell you how many conversations I've had about gun violence and what I would do if there was a school shooting here.

"You would never think it would happen here in Chapel Hill, but it is happening everywhere. You never know. I don't even know the words to use.

"Five years ago I would have never thought I was uncomfortable as I am now as an 18-year-old to come to school. It's mindboggling."