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Uncanny Timing Of New Drama "The Rack"

Reported: Apr. 9, 2014 11:14 PM EDT
Updated: Apr. 10, 2014 10:16 AM EDT

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Stefano DiPietrantonio) - It's almost uncanny, given today's violent events at a high school outside of Pittsburgh, PA, that a Charleston playwright has a show out right now, dealing with, of all things, violence in schools.

It may not be as much as, art imitating life, as art, trying to explain the virtually inexplicable in life. After incidents like today, plus Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and more, we are left asking, ‘why’. In, “The Rack”, a new drama by Daniel Kehde, the cast of the Contemporary Youth Arts Company, had a refresher run-through Wednesday night in Charleston. It looks at tragedy from all sides, though we may never leave the theater, with any more answers, than we had when we walked in.

"I was mad,” said Kehde, reacting to the tragedy just outside Pittsburgh. “I told the kids the same thing. We can almost write his biography."

Even as his actors run through heavyweight scenes in his new drama, “The Rack”, the incident is ever-present.

"The cast and I talked about the likelihood of something like this happening and how horrible it would be if it did," said Kehde.

His story takes places in rural, Anytown, USA, picking-up the pieces after a school shooting.

"Screams and all that blood," said the character, playing the town Sheriff, recalling a shooting at the school. The tragedy is a surprise to no one.

"Yet they still ask why, for months afterward!,” we said to Kehde. “And you blame everybody!,” said Kehde. “From the NRA, to the liberals, to anybody in-between, to bad parents, to bad teachers, to an incident that happened when he was a child, anything to give you control over the situation and there's no control over the situation."

The finger pointing in, “The Rack”, goes full-circle, from the shooter's parents:

"He was my son,” said the father. “I thought maybe he'd grow out of it."

To the sheriff who brought the shooter down.

"Yeah I fired two shots into him," the character tearfully recalled.

"Oh here we go again, guns don't kill people, people kill people, right?,” yelled a female character. “This is crazy! This was a troubled boy!"

"Why didn't you get him into an institution?,” a psychiatrist asks the crowd and himself. “You think I've slept at all since this happened?,” he said.

"I went back and I looked at the shooters and tried to find out why,” said Kehde. “And the only common thread between all of them, was that they were just mentally unstable, and everybody in the community knew it."

"Why are people going to want to come see this play, when we watch this unfold almost every night on TV?," we asked.

"It's worth the discussion,” said Kehde. “Worth not turning your back on."

It was almost eerie watching this play, like watching a re-play of interviews of victims and their families from real-life incidents. But these are the exchanges you never saw on TV. Performances of “The Rack” are 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $8 for students, $15 for adults. The show is at the West Virginia State University Capitol Theater on Summers Street in downtown Charleston. Kehde invites everyone, to come and be challenged and see if you recognize any of yourself, in this compelling drama.

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