The Library focuses on school shootings and the aftermath
The Chattanooga Theatre Centre is bringing a contemporary play “ripped from today’s headlines” to the Circle Theatre. It’s quite a departure from the typical fare the public has come to enjoy from the community theatre, and we sat down with director Scott Dunlap to find out what all the fuss is about.
The Pulse: Tell us about the story behind The Library.
Scott Dunlap: It’s kind of a mystery in a way. It’s about a school shooting and a girl, Caitlin Gabriel, who’s injured. Through eyewitnesses she has been accused of assisting the killer. It’s about how quickly a story gets out and how quickly that becomes the definitive story, the truth. Also, how willing we are to settle for the first thing we hear being the truth. The play uses today’s hot button issues—ripped from today’s headlines like a Law & Order episode.
TP: Tell me about your cast.
SD: The lead is a high school age character and we cast two high school students who are sharing the role. Maggie Meller and Jaime McConnico play Caitlin.
TP: Why did you doublecast the lead role?
SD: Mainly so that it would be unsettling for the actors onstage. It especially makes the adults in the play really listen and respond. For these girls, some of the direction is the same but they might interpret it differently—you might have more empathy with one than the other. It also took a little bit of the pressure off of them—we don’t have professional actors to make sure they have time to do their homework—and this way one of them could be at rehearsal at all times.
TP: Being that this is sensitive subject matter and not typical fare for the CTC, how did you select this play?
SD: Some of the reasons were that it has a young lead and really strong female characters. The play is very topical and very now. We get a lot of requests for newer plays and it’s hard because some of the newer stuff is about stuff Chattanooga may not want to hear.
This is modern without being vulgar. It’s not about guns and gun control—the play doesn’t take a stance on that type of stuff.
TP: Is the story based on a real story?
SD: The story is inspired by Columbine but it is completely fictional. For me I see the connection the play is trying to make in everything—the media has to get the story out so quickly that they rush to have facts but don’t have time to have facts. But once you’ve spilled that how do you get it back in the bottle?
I see that politically and everywhere—lately we’re into immediate reporting and two or three days later we hear, here’s the other side of the story. We’re acquiring information but not necessarily the truth.
TP: How is the story told?
SD: It’s Caitlin’s story with several scenes that are interactions and reactions of people in her life since the incident. The other night as I was watching it reminded me of Alice in Wonderland—while there are moments that are real there are also scenes that are a concept. A lot of things that reflect her mental state are told through abstract concept.
The entire cast is onstage the whole time in 90 minutes with no intermission. It’s very concise. Everything is for a purpose and all the ends are tied up—you don’t feel cheated at the end going I wonder what happened to that thread of the story.
TP: What is the set design like?
SD: It is very abstract. We’re mostly in the library—but it’s an artistic representation of Caitlin’s situation. Sarah Miecielica has designed the sets. She’s done a good job of helping it move swiftly and smoothly and still keeping us in a mindset or a feeling.
Also the play is done in the round, which we haven’t done in a long time, and that adds to that feeling of eavesdropping on the conversation. I hope people respond to it. That’s the thing; people ask for modern stuff but then they need to come out and support it.
The Library plays in the Circle Theatre at the Chattanooga Theatre Center on October 28 – November 13 Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit theatrecentre.com