The Road to ‘Rage’

A panel on ‘Rage’ and gun violence was the first in a series of events at QU meant to start important conversations

This+is+version+16+of+the+playbill+for+%27Rage%2C%27+with+the+final+version+still+in+the+works.+

Ian Addison

This is version 16 of the playbill for ‘Rage,’ with the final version still in the works.

Ashley Pelletier, Staff Writer

Discussions at Quinnipiac University about gun violence and its causes began on Wednesday, Feb. 12, at a panel for “Rage,” the upcoming spring musical. 

The panel, comprised of Elizabeth Dinkova, the writer and director of “Rage,” Don Sawyer, vice president for equity and inclusion at Quinnipiac, Kalfani Ture, an assistant professor of criminal justice, Scarlett Lewis, founder of the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement and Thomas Pruzinsky, a professor of psychology. 

Connor Lawless
The ‘Rage’ panelists were Quinnipiac professors and administrators, the writer and director of the musical and the founder of the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement.

To start off the panel, Kevin Daly, assistant professor of theatre at Quinnipiac, discussed how the theatre program chose Dinkova to produce its spring production and why “Rage” is the show that it is performing. 

When Daly reached out to Dinkova, she sent him the script she had been working on, “Rage.” Daly felt as though he was not “equipped personally” to guide the theatre program through such a production, but Dinkova had no other passion project. 

“I felt conflicted, because that’s the type of artist that I want our students introduced to,” Daly said. “I want our students to work with someone who, despite perhaps needing work and wanting work, has an integrity to what she’s doing and has a vision for what she thinks is important.” 

Lewis was the final convincing factor that led to the decision for Quinnipiac to put on “Rage.” Lewis, whose son, Jesse, was a victim in the Sandy Hook shooting, was passionate about the idea of the production and was there to start difficult conversations surrounding gun violence. 

“I realized it is actually all of our responsibilities to keep out kids safe in schools, including mine,” Lewis said. “And so I wanted to do something to be part of the solution. So, I did not want to be against something. I wanted to be for something.”

As the group came together, it acknowledged that a “play with music” was a choice that does not really fit with the content of the production. Dinkova said the choice to incorporate music into the story was made in order to increase the connection with its audience. 

“We have this saying in Bulgarian: ‘Whoever is singing can think no evil,’” said Dinkova. “I do truly believe that there is something about the act of sharing our emotion, sharing our stories together in the room, especially through the power of music can be the antidote to lack of connection, that can be the antidote to violence. Maybe that is naive of me, but I do believe it.”

All of the members of the panel agreed that a lack of connection was a significant factor in the cause of gun violence. The hope it shared was that theatre was an avenue to build connections and start conversations in order to break the cycle of violence. 

“People think people snap, but they don’t,” Lewis said. “It’s a long, slow, steady lifetime of all these things that lead somebody to do what they would eventually do.”

Sawyer discussed the idea of a “brave space” and how such a space was necessary in order to have conversations about gun control and violence, especially on college campuses. 

“I think this play is crucial right now. When you think about the political climate that we’re in, you think about the fact that it seems that we’ve lost the ability to have civil disagreements,” Sawyer said. “We’ve lost the ability to connect to one another. I think this gives us an opportunity again to connect and understand that we all have this common thread that binds us together, which is our humanity, right? And those connections are things that make our campus a better place and it makes our nation a better place. And it makes our world a better place. I think we can do that through theatre.”

Audience members received a sneak peek at a song from the musical performed by Michael Pemberton, who is portraying the writer in the show. The song is about the struggle of an artist whose works have led to violence, much like the history of the actual novel. 

While Stephen King had no involvement in the creative production of “Rage,” the story is based on the history behind the novel and the fictionalized events in the novel. The novel was taken out of print due to several copycat attacks inspired by the story. Despite his previous worries about copycat incidents, King gave Dinkova the rights to produce the musical based on his story.

This panel and the production will not be the end of the conversation about gun violence at Quinnipiac. Other events are being planned so that people who cannot see “Rage” will be able to take part in these conversations that began at the panel. 

“Rage” will be performed from Thursday, Feb. 27, to Sunday, March 1, with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 27 to Feb. 29, and performances at 2 p.m. on Feb. 29, and March 1. All five performances have already sold out, but people interested can be put on a waitlist the night of the show for any seats that may open up.