Arts & Culture

Zombie play spoofs strict school policy



In 2005, then-18-year-old high school student William Poole from Kentucky was arrested after writing a short story about zombies taking over his school.

Charged with a second degree felony for terrorist threatening, bail was initially set at $1,000 and was then raised to $5,000. The case was eventually thrown out, but the story itself was made unavailable.

Playwright Paul North now tells his own version of the story in the new play “Zolumbine.”

“It’s important for us to take the moment and give some real thought at how bsurd we’re being at times,” said North, who recently moved to Eugene and has been researching the Kentucky incident for a year.

With a creative writing degree from Arizona State University, North has previously published two plays, and his work has been produced around the country, mainly at university theaters. University students will bring the piece to life this Friday at the Pizza Research Institute.

“Zolumbine” joins zombie thriller action with political satire. The play has 14 characters and a cast of about seven actors. The roles were still undecided at the first rehearsal on Monday, but University senior Alex Shea had so far tried out for the parts of the science teacher and police officer.

“It’s a really funny play and it’s got some serious undertones to it,” said Shea, a friend of North’s. “It’s a topic that is not brought to light particularly often.”

University student John Sheehy, a freshman with limited acting experience, remembered his grandmother’s desire for him to become more involved in acting when he stumbled across a “Zolumbine” flier, and decided to try out.

“It looks like it’s going to be extremely funny and very thought-provoking,” Sheehy said.

“You can definitely see where the inspiration came from and where it went.”

“Zolumbine” is still in the bare bones of production, and Friday’s show will be a stage reading with a few props.

“I want to sort of hit the audience, feel the reaction to it, go back and make the play better,” North said.

In one scene, the high school principal gives a speech when a cheerleader runs screaming from a zombie in the background. The principal tells her not to run in the hallways.

In the world of “Zolumbine,” the school’s janitor is accustomed to cleaning up the bloody zombie mess, and the chef has to include something on the lunch menu for the undead.

“It has that air of comedy to it, but with a point. The audience has to think about what the greater implications are,” North said.

In writing the story, North’s first purpose is political, but many get excited by the zombie theme.

“Horror’s so popular in our culture right now. It’s gonna draw people in to deliver the political message,” North said.

North said it seems the Kentucky community has moved on, but issues of surveillance and security continue to pop up around the country. The playwright focuses on how fear has changed us, specifically in our schools.

“(They are) suppressing creativity in an effort to control the students,” North said, while still acknowledging that faculties need to be aware of how students are doing emotionally and what they are up to.

He also pointed to the impossibility of student profiling, as offenders in past shootings have come from diverse backgrounds and have shown different levels of performance in school.

“It’s not only the trench coat mafia white boys doing it. It’s all over the board,” he said.

At one point, North attempted to communicate with Poole, the student arrested in Kentucky, through Facebook, but he did not get a response. He plans to alert Poole of the play’s existence when it is finished.

“I’d be very curious to hear his perspective,” North said.

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