Relevant, Riveting and Close to Home
Sayville High School Drama Students Give Outstanding Performances in 26 Pebbles!
The play 26 Pebbles deals with the events surrounding the December 14th school shooting in the small town of Newtown, Connecticut.
When its author, Eric Ulloa, had first heard the terrible news in 2012, he was living far away from the small town. Many months after the tragedy, however, he had found he was still struggling with its impact, even as its newsworthiness peaked and fell in the media. Ulloa decided to visit Newtown in search of answers. After multiple trips and over “sixty interviews with people from all walks of life within this community,” he conceived 26 Pebbles, explaining that it “is not a play about the death of twenty young children and six adults. Those are just the circumstances. 26 Pebbles is the story of hope and family and community. It is the story of the human condition.”
Ulloa delivers in this poignant portrayal. He deftly shifts the tragic focus that could be Sandy Hook’s legacy to one of hope and love. With great sensitivity, he describes the town and its people who are dealing in the aftermath with the loss of their innocence—innocence, both in the comfort zone of a small town that has never seen such violence, as well as, the children and school personnel who were tragically killed.
The subject matter is a difficult one. Art imitating life at a devastating moment might seem literally too close to home—the parallels to our own small town are chillingly familiar. The play, however, offers a human and balanced view of all aspects from outrage to compassion. Every voice is represented; every emotion portrayed, and while there is no changing the tragedy that occurred, 26 Pebbles ends with a truly uplifting and cathartic message.
A drama this intense might seem too difficult for high school students to perform. The range of emotions is demanding even for seasoned adults. Yet, the masterful performances by the Sayville players who plumbed the depths of fear, loss, grief, anger, and hope were extraordinary to behold. Moving scenes came alive in their faces, their voices, and their hearts. What audiences experienced in the intimate setting of the Little Theatre was both heart wrenching and breathtaking.
During play rehearsals, psychological counseling provided by Mary Gravina, LCSW, Assistant Vice President of Counseling & Pediatric Services, Hospice Care Network counseled the Sayville students about grief caused by such a tragedy. She helped them identify with their characters and yet not be overwhelmed by the traumatic re-enactments they were being asked to perform on the stage. It was an especially bonding experience. As the actors learned their roles, they remembered the news reports and media coverage of the incident. Seven-and-a-half years ago, many of the Sayville high school performers were close in age to the six-year-old victims. One actor was a six-year-old living close to Newtown at that time. She and her family moved to Sayville several years later.
After each performance of 26 Pebbles, the actors participated in question-and-answer sessions with audiences. The students shared their insights about the craft of acting and exploring their emotions, noted Newtown’s resemblance to the Sayville community, and expressed what they learned from the incredible true story. All agreed what happened at Sandy Hook should not be forgotten. They felt that choosing to perform 26 Pebbles was one way to spread the important lessons. As a line in the play states: “It’s all about how you ripple out and what these vibrations can be.”
“I guess,” Eric Ulloa had said in an online interview for TheatreMania in 2017, “all I ask for is that audiences leave the theater and continue to discuss and tell the story of Newtown. Tell your friends and family and neighbors.”
“It’s been quite a ride for us,” Sayville Drama Director Doug Shaw remarked about the production, “and I’m very proud of this group.” Mr. Shaw also noted that, “To my knowledge, and according to the publisher, we are only the second performance of any kind of this show on Long Island. The first was in the Three Village summer program.”
Congratulations to the cast, crew, and director Doug Shaw for showcasing this courageous story and adding to the ripple effect.
And the Sayville High School Saturday matinee, despite the snow shower, raised $400 for Sandy Hook Promise.