image002American Theater Company announces the world premiere of the revised version of columbinus, written by Stephen Karam and PJ Paparelli, with dramaturgy by Patricia Hersch, and conceived and directed by Artistic Director PJ Paparelli.  The 2013 production will premiere material devised from recent interviews with survivors of the Columbine High School Shootings, families of victims and residents of Littleton, Colorado. The new material includes never-before-released information on the shooters and their families and first-hand accounts of both the Columbine and Aurora shootings.  columbinus will run February 1  – March 10, 2013, at American Theater Company, 1909 W Byron St, Chicago, IL.  

Littleton, Colorado. 1999.  Two teenagers devastate a community and shock the country when they walk into their suburban high school and kill twelve students and one teacher.  Based on interviews with teenagers across the country and survivors and community members in Littleton, this haunting drama takes a hard look at modern teenagers through the lens of the most infamous high school shooting in American history.

“Folks who didn’t want to talk before because of lawsuits or their healing process, have now all opened up,” said Paparelli about the recent interviews.  “I was shocked at what I heard and I am glad that theater will be the vehicle to get this information out to the world.”

Several survivors who are featured in the documentary play will travel to Chicago to work with the cast and attend Opening Night.

Paparelli continues, “The events in Newtown have saddened and, frankly, angered our entire company as well as those survivors from Columbine with whom we have been working with so closely on this project.  While the nation mourns, a passionate dialogue has begun about the larger issues of gun control, mental health treatment, and ultimately, the unanswerable question of, “why?”.  Our interviewees in Colorado and our artistic team hope that columbinuswill be forum for Chicagoans to further that dialogue, which is exactly why teenagers from Chicago Public School are at the center of that dialogue, as they work on the play in classrooms around the city.”

Over 1000 ninth grade students in Chicago Public Schools English classes will have a first-hand experience with columbinusThrough ATC’s American Mosaic program and in conjunction with the city-wide initiative to address violence in the schools, Now Is The Time, ATC teaching artists will collaborate with classroom teachers to lead students in a performance-based study of the play.  Through American Mosaic, ATC hopes to strengthen reading competency and comprehension, spark interest in reading and lead and inspire meaningful conversation about solutions to violence.

columbinus features Matt Bausone (Freak/Eric Harris), Rob Fenton (Prep), Eric Folks (Loner/Dylan Klebold), Leah Karpel (Faith), Aaron J. Nelson (Jock), Kelly O’Sullivan (Perfect), Tyler Ravelson (AP), and Sadieh Rifai (Rebel).

The creative team for columbinus includes William Boles (Scenic Designer), Jesse Klug (Lighting Designer), Mac Vaughey (Associate Lighting Designer), Sally Dolembo (Costume Designer), Andre Pluess (Sound Designer) and Martin Desjardins (Original Sound Designer) and Mike Tutaj (Projection Designer).  Michael Leibenluft is the Assistant Director, Rick Combs is the Technical Director, G. Max Maxin IV is the Properties Master, and Katie Klemme is the Stage Manager.


PJ PAPARELLI(Conceiver, Co-Writer, Director) is the author of Any Year is This Year a documentary play in partnership with Maria Irene Fornes (ATC’s Silver Project); Raven Odyssey (Perseverance Theater) a documentary style play on Alaska Native Raven stories; and columbinus (New York Theatre Workshop). columbinus was nominated for 2 Lucille Lortel Awards, 5 Helen Hayes Awards, and has had over 150 productions around the world.  He is in his sixth season as Artistic Director of American Theater Company where his directing credits include The Original Grease (2011 Jeff Award Best Musical), The Catholic Rep, The Amish Project, Escape, Distracted, Yeast Nation by the writers of Urinetown, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, True West (Caucasian & African American versions), and Speech & Debate (2008 Jeff Nomination Best Director). From 2004-2007 he was the Artistic Director of Perseverance Theaterin Juneau, Alaska and from 1998-2004 he was the Associate Director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, DC.  Regional directing credits include Romeo and Juliet (The Folger), a collaboration with Terrence McNally on a new version of Corpus Christi at Source Theatre (2003 GLAAD Media Award), Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis), Twelfth Night at Shakespeare Santa Cruz (2005 Newsweek’s Top Five summer productions), The Merchant of Venice (American Shakespeare Center), Action (Circle Rep) and True West in Russian at the Moscow Art Theatre School. PJ has directed and/or taught Shakespeare at The Juilliard School, Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College, North Carolina School of the Arts, University of Alaska-Southeast, UNC at Chapel Hill, Catholic U, U of Pennsylvania, and Johns Hopkins.  He holds a BFA in directing from Carnegie Mellon and graduate studies in acting at the Moscow Art Theatre School.  He was in residency last summer at The Orchard Project in NY, developing a documentary play on Chicago’s Public Housing.

STEPHEN KARAM (Co-Writer) is the author of Sons of the Prophet (2012 Pulitzer Prize Finalist and winner of the Drama Critics Circle, Outer Critics Circle & Lucille Lortel Awards for Best Play).  Other plays include Speech & Debate, the inaugural production of Roundabout Underground and the regional premiere at American Theater Company; columbinus (New York Theatre Workshop); Girl on Girl (Brown/Trinity Playwrights Rep); and Emma (a modern, musical version of Jane Austen’s novel), performed by students of the Professional Performing Arts High School in NYC in association with Waterwell.  He wrote the libretto for Dark Sisters, an original chamber opera with composer Nico Muhly (co-produced by Gotham Chamber Opera, MTG and Opera Company of Philadelphia). Stephen has been a guest teacher at Brown University, NYU, University of Scranton, The New School and is a 2012 writer-in-residence at the Fieldston School in NYC. A MacDowell Colony Fellow, Stephen grew up in Scranton, PA and is a graduate of Brown University.  He is the recipient of the inaugural Sam Norkin Off-Broadway Drama Desk Award and the Dramatists Guild’s Hull-Warriner Award for Sons of the Prophet.

PATRICIA HERSCH (Dramaturg) is the author of the critically acclaimed book A Tribe Apart: Journey into the Heart of American Adolescence. Considered the “first report from the home front” the year it was released, both and The Wall Street Journal named it one of the top 10 books in parenting, families and work. As lecturer, consultant, writer and youth advocate, she tours the country bridging the gap between adolescents and the adult world around them. Immediately following the Columbine shootings, she was called upon to address a special meeting of the COPS (Community Oriented Police in the Schools) program at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., and a Speak Out Forum for Youth convened by MTV and the National Association of Attorneys General and to keynote a conference of Educational Writers Association on Violence in the Schools. A former contributing editor to Psychology Today, she has been published in The Washington Post, USA Today, The Baltimore Sun and other newspapers and magazines. Her new book A Passion of Their Own: The Adolescent Quest for Connection will include some of her experiences working on columbinus.

Matt Bausone (Freak/Eric Harris) is making his American Theater Company debut in columbinus. He is a recent graduate of Illinois State University.


Rob Fenton (Prep) makes his second appearance with American Theater Company. Rob moved to Chicago to be in Timeline Theatre’s production of The History Boys and was last seen with TheMASSIVE in their production of Macbeth. Rob is a founding ensemble member of The Alluvium Group. He has also worked with Dog and Pony, Griffin, Mary Arrchie, The Neo-Futurists, Sinnerman Ensemble, Signal Ensemble, and Steppenwolf Theatre companies.

Eric Folks (Loner/Dylan Klebold) is a New York based actor where he is a company member at the Flea Theater. At the Flea he has appeared in the world premieres of JOB by Thomas Bradshaw, Just Cause by Zack Russel, and The Wundelsteipen and Other Difficult Roles for Young People by Nick Jones. He has also played a slew of roles in #serials@theflea, the Flea’s raucous late-night episodic play competition. Other Credits: Almost, Maine (New London Barn Playhouse), Fiddler on the Roof (New London Barn Playhouse), and A Man of No Importance (Gallery Players, Brooklyn). Eric is a graduate of Otterbein University.

Leah Karpel (Faith) has appeared in Chicago in The Glass MenagerieThe Hot L Baltimore (Steppenwolf Theatre); We Are Proud to Present… (Victory Gardens Theatre); Punk Rock (Griffin Theatre); Neighborhood 3: Requisition Of Doom (Strawdog Theatre Company); and Feet Of Clay (Last Match Theatre).  Regional credits include Ten Chimneys (Milwaukee Rep); Half And Half (Penguin Rep); The Play About My Dad (CollaborationTown); and Evanston: A Rare Comedy (HERE Arts/PS 122).  She will be seen next in The Whale at Victory Gardens Theatre.  Leah received her BFA from Boston University and is a graduate of The School At Steppenwolf.

Aaron J. Nelson (Jock) has worked with Disney, Estee Lauder, The Chicago Bulls, Six Flags, Profiles’ Theatre, and The World Literacy Crusade. He is also a songwriter and producer under his musical alias “Apollo.” Aaron received his Bachelors of Arts in Arts, Entertainment, and Media Management from Columbia College Chicago in 2012.

Kelly O’Sullivan (Perfect) has appeared in Hesperia (Writers Theatre), The Seagull (Goodman Theatre), Honest, Good Boys and True, The Crucible, and 100 Saints You Should Know (Steppenwolf Theatre), Freshly Fallen Snow (Chicago Dramatists), The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Northlight Theatre), Jon (Collaboraction Theatre), Boom (Next Theatre), The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (American Theater Company), The Glory of Living (Profiles Theatre), and Mr. Marmalade -Jeff Nomination Principal Actress in a Play (Dog & Pony Theatre), My Wonderful Day– Barrymore Nomination Outstanding Supporting Actress (The Wilma Theatre) and the Ojai Playwrights Conference.  Her film and TV credits include In Memoriam, Battleground, and The Mob Doctor.  Kelly is a graduate of Northwestern University and The School at Steppenwolf.

TYLER RAVELSON (AP) has previously appeared at American Theater Company in It’s A Wonderful Life: The Radio Play, The Original Grease (Jeff Award: Best Musical) and Rent, directed by David Cromer. Most recently, he was seen in the Goodman Theatre’s Sweet Bird of Youth, also directed by David Cromer. Other Chicago credits include The Nutcracker and Girls vs. Boys at The House Theatre, Talk Radio at State Theatre Chicago, and The Hundred Dresses at Chicago Children’s Theatre. Regional credits include Frank Galati’s production of Twelve Angry Men at The Maltz Jupiter Theater in Florida. A Massachusetts native, he is a 2009 BFA graduate of Roosevelt University’s Theatre Conservatory.

Sadieh Rifai(Rebel) is an ensemble member at American Theater Company where she has performed in The Catholic Rep: Doubt and Agnes of God, The Amish Project, The Original Grease, Welcome to Arroyo’s, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Distracted, and Speech and Debate for which she won an After Dark Award for Outstanding Performance. Other credits include The Piano Teacher (Next Theater), Merchant of Venice (Silk Road Theatre), Ski Dubai (Steppenwolf Theatre First Look) and understanding the role of Johanna Monevata in August: Osage County (Steppenwolf Theatre). Sadieh is a graduate of The School at Steppenwolf.  Film credits include: the award winning The Wise Kids (New Fest, Out Fest and NYC LGBT Film Festival) and the feature film Nate and Margaret. She’s also a recurring character in the mockumentary Bad Sides, which was recently a finalist in the Chicago Comedy TV Pilot Competition. Sadieh was most recently awarded the Princess Grace Theater Award.


American Theater Company is an ensemble of artists committed to producing new and classic American stories that ask the question, “What does it mean to be an American?”

American Theater Company is supported by a CityArts Program 2 Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events; Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; Shubert Foundation; Lloyd A. Fry Foundation; Polk Bros. Foundation; Pauls Foundation; Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, and Prince Charitable Trusts.