Killer Instinct

If there is “a potential killer in every school,” as playwright William Mastrosimone believes, one can only hope he or she has the opportunity to see Bang Bang You’re Dead. The brutal show, which Mastrosimone insists be performed by teenagers for teenagers, is this year’s production by the Metropolitan Youth Company of the Missouri Repertory Theatre.

Risa Brainin, who cofounded the group with the Missouri Rep’s producing artistic director, Peter Altman, and the Coterie’s artistic director, Jeff Church, says the eleven area teens who make up the company will play victims of a high-school shooter and the killer himself, a classic outsider named Josh.

“It takes place in Josh’s mind from the first moment he’s alone after the shootings,” Brainin says. “It’s the first time he’s had to reflect on the act, and it’s about him realizing the consequences. What’s good about the piece is that everyone realizes that there are consequences to every act.”

Mastrosimone is so enthusiastic about high-school groups’ performing the play that he makes the script available on a Web site (bangbangyouredead.com) and demands that performances be free. “I would never allow the play to be on video or film,” he says, “because it’s important that kids see their peers on stage — kids they ride the bus with, kids they eat lunch with.” He also says that the script “is directed at the potential killer, [and] if one, in sitting at this play, should see … the dire irrevocable consequences, that would make it worth all the time, effort and expense.”

Brainin acknowledges that no play really has the power to prevent a school shooting. Yet, she adds, “There are so many copycats, and for a copycat, this play could be preventive. Those kids on the fringes of becoming more and more isolated may see this and hook back in.”