Bringing light to sorrow: How the drama department is honoring Sandy Hook Elementary

The cast of ‘26 Pebbles’ prepares to honor Sandy Hook Elementary through their performances on Oct. 9, 10

Braeden Jackson

The cast of ‘26 Pebbles’ prepares to honor Sandy Hook Elementary through their performances on Oct. 9, 10

Elizabeth Pischke, Copy Editor

1,316. There have been 1,316 school shootings that have occurred in America since 1970, and 18% of them have taken place after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy. 

These statistics, and the overall topic of increasing gun violence in America, is only part of the reason Senior Erica Heiselman pitched “26 Pebbles” as the fall show for the drama department. “26 Pebbles” tells the story of the aftermath and victims of the Sandy Hook shooting, which Heiselman, the show’s director, believed would be an eye-opening tale for the community to witness. 

PV Spartan Drama is no stranger to shows which tackle heavy subjects. In 2016 they performed “Sweeny Todd” and most recently, in 2019, tackled the subject of bullying through their performance of “Carrie: The Musical.” 

However, while “26 Pebbles” comes with its own weighty message, it provides a sense of unity: one Heiselman sees relating to the current state of the world. “This show is all about a community coming together in times of tragedy and hardship,” Heiselman explained. “[It is] similar to the experiences the world is going through right now with COVID-19.”

Preparing for such a tribute took much time, hard work and education. To prepare for their parts, each cast member was assigned two victims to research before putting together a small presentation to share with the other cast and crew members. This way, everyone was able to learn more about the people they would be portraying in their performance. 

Senior Jared Jones believes the research project played a huge part in learning his role. “It was really difficult to prepare and get into these character’s mindsets because they are real people who have been through some extremely rough times,” he explained. “But through this research project, [the cast was] able to be more emotional in our connection to our characters and in our acting.”

In “26 Pebbles” Jones plays three different characters – Mike, Chris and Rabbi Praver. Mike and Chris were two figures who both did as much as they could to help people during the crisis because they truly cared about the community and its members. 

Rabbi Praver was a religious member of the town who put aside everything once tragedy struck to console and pray for people. “His whole character sends a message to step up, don’t wait,” Jones stated. “If you see something happening and know you can do something about it, take action. No matter what, you will make an impact.” 

With such a serious piece of art, there can be a risk of possible backlash. However, this was never a concern for Heiselman because she believed the issues discussed in the show are ones society has been ignoring for far too long. 

Instead of focusing on the heaviness of the show, Heiselman wanted the audience to grasp the many messages “26 Pebbles” provides. “First and foremost, I want people to understand the importance of gun control and mental health in our country,” she said. “In addition to this, “26 Pebbles” shows the audience that love trumps all.”

As for Jones, he wanted the audience to take away the idea of multiple valid viewpoints on the same issue. “Not everything is black or white, yes or no,” he expressed. 

Throughout the show, an idea or event is being often discussed by multiple people at the same time. One character may be furious, while another is showing how desperately they are trying to keep it together. Being able to see these different reactions simultaneously, is something Jones thought the audience would appreciate watching. 

Overall, “26 Pebbles”, according to Jones, is a universal show. He explained by saying the show is not solely about school shootings, but about bigger themes as well. “It talks about community, laughter, tragedy, grieving, healing and coming back together,” he said. “This show’s message can reach almost any facet of human life. It is much larger than what you’d first think.”

In a world with much sorrow, the drama program is hoping to provide some light by performing this show to give the Sandy Hook community a meaningful tribute.