Students at High School North are performing the play “Bang Bang You’re Dead!” this month. Pictured are Rosie Pipada, assistant director and stage manager (left), Josh Goldhammer, lead, and Ted Braun, director. (Photo by Henry Wang.)

Ted Braun was a freshman when he saw Bang Bang You’re Dead! at High School North several years ago.

“When I watched it, I knew I had to be a part of it,” Braun said. “I auditioned at the end of freshman year and have been a part of it since.”

Now a senior, Braun is the director of the play, written by William Mastrosimone, that is performed annually for the school’s freshmen by students in the higher classes.

This year’s freshmen performance will be on Tuesday, March 26, and there will be a performance for the public at 7:30 p.m. on March 28.

The play centers around the character Josh, who has shot and killed five schoolmates, and the factors that contributed to his mental decline and the tragic act.

“Our goal is to spread awareness of the factors of gun violence in schools,” Braun said. “Every year we get told how touched people are by the show. It opens the eyes of the audience to the relatability of the main character.

“He’s like everyone else. He’s a normal kid that gets bullied a lot and that’s what drives him over the edge. Everyone who watches it says how important it is that we’re doing it and how they’re happy they got to see it.”

The play is run by students, most of whom get involved in the play early and remain in the small cast until graduation.

Junior assistant director and stage manager Rosie Pipada has been a part of the cast since she was a freshman. She has gone from portraying a victim in her first year to Josh’s mother last year and the court prosecutor this year.

The cast has been working on the play since the start of the school year, and assembled weekly to practice and rehearse.

The play takes place following a school shooting by Josh, and then goes back in time to meet his victims and their impact on Josh’s life before moving back to the present to a court hearing. This year’s lead is played by Josh Goldhammer, a junior at North.

For the first time this year they are performing a version of the play that was updated by the author in 2009.

“The playwright wrote a separate version of it, and it gets really intense,” Goldhammer said. “You notice Josh’s demons in his head more. You get to know the kids that he shoots more. It’s very deep and dark. It’s really interesting to be able to play this character.”

This year’s version introduces a new character called “Josh’s Shadow,” which reveals his subconscious. It also explores more deeply each shooting victim and their relationship to Josh.

“This play shows the emotions behind the shooter and the victims,” Goldhammer said. “It shows how essential it is to be there for your friends in different situations and to seek help.”

After the play a discussion is held with the audience—a condition that Mastrosimone insists on while offering use of the play for free.

“Gun violence is becoming so much more prevalent,” Pipada said. “It’s upsetting to hear there isn’t more change being made on the part of adults. As students, we need to make a change within our community locally. This production helped the student body and freshmen in our school understand there are people and places you can go to talk if you’re ever feeling uncomfortable.”

“I feel like school shootings are turning into normalcy,” Goldhammer said. “Before every show, we read a list of every school shooting. We had to crop the list last year because it was too long.”

The cast is hoping that the performance will further raise awareness of the factors that play into such tragedies, and they are hoping it helps their school think of ways to reduce the risk.

Performing the play is a different approach than presentations or guest speakers for a student body. The show pulls the audience into the story in a meaningful way.

“It’s much more powerful, I think, than a program about violence, although that also has its place,” said faculty advisor Deborah Goodkin. “To see it enacted is very powerful. It’s fair and very well written.”

She said that the cast has worked to make it another memorable production.

“It’s very effective because it’s very alarming to see someone get on stage and act and perform in such a way that’s so scary,” Pipada said. “It really brings home the message of how tragic such an event can be, and how painful such an event can be because so many of the scenes show the pain of the parents and the other students and how upset they are, and the pain that Josh is going through. He’s bullied and made fun of for being a social outcast by his peers.

“You can tell he’s probably a little unstable to begin with, and he doesn’t have a very strong support system at home and very strict parents, which is kind of similar to some of the parents in WW-P who need to be a little more sympathetic toward mental health issues. He’s a very relatable character and it’s scary to see how a person similar to someone in our student body potentially could face such a severe mental decline.”

The play helps students see a dramatized effect of bullying, and the cast hopes it helps to make High School North a healthier environment for everyone. They realize that they can play a role in shaping their school culture.

“Leaving the assembly, students are thinking about smiling at the kid they don’t know, or talking to someone they haven’t, or noticing the kid who’s not in the group project with them,” said Goodkin, who has been overseeing its production for the past 15 years.

The cast is hoping that Bang Bang You’re Dead! is a thought-provoking way to educate their fellow students about some hot topic issues.

“I think it’s so important to make sure that this doesn’t happen in our community,” Pipada said. “Any effort that can be made to prevent tragedies that happen in other school districts from happening in our own community must be taken.

“I think it’s so important to make sure that this doesn’t happen in our community,” Pipada said. “Any effort that can be made to prevent tragedies that happen in other school districts from happening in our own community must be taken.