Daniel R. Winters
The Library is not a play about a school shooting. It is a story about survival– about living in the wake of tragedy, and about struggles on the path towards healing. Through a clinical psychologic lens of dealing with trauma (PTSD, Recovered-Memory Therapy), the play explores the disastrous effects of misremembering vs. the distress of remembering. This notion of memories falling apart/into place served as a major theme in the scenic design.
The playwright suggests that “the stage is dressed as the Golden Valley High School library...The entire play will take place here in the library.” The director desired the set be as abstract as possible. The challenge here was to find a way to effectively respect both requests. For a play that takes place almost everywhere but, it was important to me that the set feel as though we never left the library. This idea was accomplished by covering the entire playing space with carpet tiles. The carpet evokes the feel of institutional architecture, and adds the muffled quiet we associate with libraries. In one direction, the squares can be seens as breaking apart and disappearing into nothingness– memories lost & fading. In the other direction, they are dropping back into place, life settling into order. Looming over every scene is the AV closet door (where a disputed party revealed to the shooter where six classmates were hiding). The door is not an entrance or an exit. On page 43 of the script, Caitlin muses on the library setting: “Each table beneath our hands. Each chair above the floor.” Each scene is comprised only of those tables and chairs. There is no set dressing or props outside those used in
action with actors.
Drifting in the darkness at the back of the stage are black backpacks. These are the memories of individual lives lost in shooting events. The same black backpacks serve as placeholders in the theater house, where the ensemble joins the audience as observers to the story on stage.
The stage “floats” on a sea of deep blackness. It is “supported” by rows & stacks of black library books, and was designed to be back-lit from beneath for emphasis. The books are titled with every American mass school shooting event [3+ shot/killed] in chronological order from 1764 to today. They are labeled with “dewey decimal” stickers listing the date, deaths, and non-fatal injuries for each event. The placement is flexible in a way that more books could be added should (god forbid) more shootings take place during the run of the show. In lieu of a traditional curtain call, actors remained on stage as the projected list of victim names scrolled over their bodies and across the stage (a list that continued 20+ minutes after house lights came up).
It’s my hope that the design for this production brings some poetry to a difficult subject, and that in experiencing the fiction of The Library the audience is moved to reflect on very real & present issues in our nation.