School shootings and gun violence have become "a normal thing," Hilliard Bradley High School senior Jessie Cornell said.
So it did not seem out of the ordinary, she said, for her fellow drama-department students to take up the emotional story of the 2012 slaying of 26 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Bradley will present "26 Pebbles" from Sept. 28 to 30 in the performing-arts center at the high school, 2800 Walker Road.
Performances are at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28, and Saturday, Sept. 29, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30.
Tickets can be purchased in advance at localevel.com for $8, $7 for students and senior citizens. Tickets are $10 at the door.
The title of "26 Pebbles," written by Eric Ulloa, is a reference to the number of people the gunman killed at the school before committing suicide. "Pebbles" refers to the ripple effect of throwing pebbles into a pond and the effect each of those deaths had in the community and beyond, Cornell said.
Cornell plays the 35-year-old mother of a Sandy Hook first-grader who avoided injury in the shooting.
The cast does not include portrayals of anybody with a family member who was killed, Cornell said. Rather, the playwright interviewed those who knew victims, their families and others living in the community, she said.
"The play is about how it affected the whole town," she said.
Cornell, who has performed since she was a freshman at Bradley, said although she has been moved in the past by personal subject matter, such as "The Diary of Anne Frank," it did not have the same impact as "26 Pebbles."
Director Carl Burgason, who was an assistant director at Bradley last year, said when he discovered the play was available to perform, he didn't hesitate to book it.
"I saw the world premiere at World Race Theater in Dayton in December 2016," said Burgason, who added his friend was in the original cast. "It was a touching production."
For Bradley's first main-stage play of the season and his first as director of Bradley's drama department, Burgason said he wanted something "contemporary and relevant" for the students.
"When I saw ("26 Pebbles" was available), I knew then and there we were going to do it," he said.