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UNC student play, 'lockdown.,' reveals frustration with desensitization to school shootings

Content warning: This review discusses dramatized scenarios of school shootings. 

“lockdown.,” a play written and directed by UNC students, highlights the unraveling of student identity and emotion while stuck in a drama classroom during a school shooting. 

Junior playwright Gage Tarlton and director and UNC graduate Mckenzie Wilson bring to life the intense spectrum of emotions that accompany a school shooting while also weeding out the nuanced interactions and issues that teenagers deal with today. 

While stuck together in a classroom, five theater students and two others, who are locked out of their own classroom, try to keep their fear of death at bay as an ominous intercom intermittently shares updates from the active shooter at their rival high school. What starts as a bunch of seemingly typical high school characters (a bratty girl, gamer boy, Shakespeare-know-it-all) quickly surpasses the Disney-ized roles teens often feel they need to fit. 

Heavy conversations about death and shootings are intermixed with themes of race and class struggle between the school’s private counterpart. These differences cause tension between the students at times, but the shooting serves as a universalizing platform for most of the students.

Bri, a non-theater student, is upset that the group should care about the students at the other school who have many more resources. Her financial inability to attend the private school leads her to resent the students there, even when under attack. To write about unity, or the lack thereof, aims to undermine the idea that the United States really can be described as such. 

Tarlton digs even further into issues with money by stating that the unseen drama teacher doubles as an English teacher. (Funding cuts for the arts, is anyone surprised?) 

What I find particularly interesting is the unveiling of the world of drama itself. As an audience member, you also have access to the backstage process of creating a show as the students try to distract themselves from the shooting crisis by rehearsing their lines. 

With this comes the unraveling of the idea that even actors and actresses cannot fully understand every character or situation, especially those as drastic as a person killing innocent students. 

A glimpse into a fast-forming crush, the intensity of panic attacks and the pressures of balancing work and school — each conversation builds to create a conglomerate of many unsolved issues that lie behind the doors of schools, and behind the reserved hearts of teenagers trying to understand the world around them. 

Tarlton wrote “lockdown.” due to his frustration at the desensitization around school shootings and a lack of gun control legislation. Tarlton said theater is a great platform to create change.

“I hope that people will see through this play that we are entering a time when it's more than just the shootings, but also the trauma that comes with bein`g a high school student and having to live through these shootings,” Tarlton said. “Having to live through a time when the government seems to be saying that young voices aren't important.” 

A bullet wound does more than pierce the skin. It arouses a ripple of fear that delves into the hearts and minds of many as seen through the work of Tarlton, Wilson and the cast of “lockdown.”


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