The UT community remembered the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre Monday with a theatrical memorial that schools around the country also performed.
UT commemorated the shooting by having theatre and dance students come together to perform “What a Stranger May Know,” a dedication to those who died, by Erik Ehn on the South Mall.
Each participant represented a victim that lost his or her life, and only 27 monologues were performed out of respect to the families who requested their loved ones not be a part of tribute, journalism and theatre and dance junior Isaac Gomez said. The monologues, which groups across the U.S. at schools including Brown University, UT-Arlington and Whittier College performed simultaneously, took place between 7:30 and 9:30 a.m. to coincide with the time when the attacks occurred.The Virginia Tech massacre was the deadliest attack by a single gunman in the history of the U.S., which ended when perpetrator Seung-Hui Cho died by suicide after killing 32 people and wounding 25 others.
This commemoration piece is an act Ehn wrote to be performed outdoors, Gomez said. Audience members and performers who serve as “witnesses” are able to walk through other performances until the ending moments when the ensemble congregated at the steps of the main lawn and stood in silence as they extinguished their candles.
“It’s not just important that this performance took place on campus, but all over the world,” Gomez said. “For UT’s rendition, the monologues were performed in various spots around South Mall because the space is inherently performative for this kind of thing, and we cannot forget the shooting that occurred on our very own campus [in 1966] on that location.”
In 1966, UT student Charles Whitman killed 16 people and wounded 32 others in a shooting rampage primarily in and around the UT Tower.
He said this was the first year the shooting was honored through this performance and he felt honored to have used Ehn’s work to remember the victims.
“Through ‘What a Stranger May Know,’ Ehn challenges the idea of ‘what is civic mourning’ and how we come together as a community to commemorate an event when we are so disconnected by it,” Gomez said.
Theater and dance sophomore Marissa Forsyth said she was a last minute addition to the cast, and after reading the monologue of one of the victims she immediately felt the meaning behind the text.
“The Virginia Tech massacre was an event that I had heard about when it happened and nothing more,” Forsyth said. “Being a part of this performance reminded all of us how valuable life is, and it allowed us to do something great for the victims and their families.”
Felicia Fitzpatrick, ethnic studies and theatre and dance sophomore, said she hoped the community remembered the significance of the tragedy.
“There are times where we think we have forever, but the kids involved in this tragedy were our age,” Fitzpatrick said. “While this happened far away from us, there is a huge relevance to our generation and we need to appreciate the time we have with our friends and loved ones.”
Printed on Tuesday, April 17, 2012 as: Actors remember massacre