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Allowing “American Roulette” to go up next week the right move by C.M. Russell High

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me 1Yesterday Chris Evans with the C.M. Russell Drama Department spoke to me about their decision to postpone “American Roulette” to give folks time to grieve and process the recent suicide of a 15-year-old CMR student.

Evans said that some were calling for them to cancel the show all together because of it’s content, which covers teen depression and a school shooting and a student who has suicidal thoughts.

It’s a touchy subject, and there’s no doubt in my mind that Evans is fully aware of that.

When we spoke last Tuesday, he mentioned the suicide at the school in 2006 and how it’s a dark reminder that these types of issues are a part of what high schoolers, teachers, families and administrators must learn to handle.

I applaud Evans and CMR for making the decision to not cancel the show. Evans said part of the reason they’re not cancelling it is that it’s a story of hope and recovery and showing the power of community togetherness to get through some of life’s most difficult challenges.

I would argue that in light of this latest suicide, “American Roulette” is even that much more relevant to all of us.

Even if you’re not a high school student, or you don’t have a child attending high school — we’ve all been there. And, as such, we all are affected by these difficult issues. We all must ask ourselves difficult questions when something like this happens. Being a teenager is difficult. There are so many conflicting feelings, so many unanswered questions, so many pressures to “fit in” or “be one of the cool kids” while also attempting to be unique and independent.

Whenever something like this happens, some of the typical questions that we might never get answers to are  things like, “Why did this happen?” “What was this person thinking?” “Could we have stopped it?” “Did this person show warning signs?” “How can we prevent this from happening in the future?”

Showing a play such as “American Roulette” can ultimately help find answers without being insensitive toward anyone who’s been involved in similar tragedies.

The goal of theater, in my mind, is to engage an audience and make them think about something, or evoke some kind of emotion that maybe they either haven’t felt in a while, or that they needed to be shown to them again for whatever reason makes them take a seat and watch the story unfold on stage.

Even if “American Roulette” were cancelled, which, seriously could have happened, these issues aren’t going away. They’re not something we can brush under the rug and pretend they don’t exist.

I’m the type of person where when I have a problem, I try my best to approach it head on and figure out how best to solve it. The first step of that process, though, is admitting that there is a problem.

I won’t go as far to say that there is a problem with what’s happening at this school, or any school in Great Falls because I know many, many great people in our public school system who care a great deal about the students they’re working to help guide into adulthood. I saw it firsthand when I worked as a substitute teacher at nearly every public school five years ago or so.

But, even when things are working, there’s always room to improve. There’s always a chance to do better. Because the second you rest on your laurels and pat yourself on the back is the second that it can all fall apart.

We might not ever know why this young man chose to end his own life at such a young age. All we can really do is look inward and ask ourselves if we can do things differently somehow, or even if we need to do things differently.

Montana as a whole leads the nation in suicides, so as a state we need to do better. Not just CMR, not just Great Falls, and really not even just Montana. We as a nation need to do better.

That’s not an opinion, that’s the cold, hard truth of this issue. According to a the CDC, “For youth between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death. It results in approximately 4,600 lives lost each year.”

suicide rate montanaThat’s 4,600 young people who felt hopeless, or felt like killing his or herself was the only option left.

Before this happens again, we should take a look at what’s happening and come up with ideas for how to improve upon it. We should take a look at what’s working well and ask ourselves how we can use those methods in places where it isn’t working well.

I feel that most importantly, we need to do a better job, and I say we being everyone in this country, of letting people know that they’re important.

Talking to a friend last night, he told me that there were times when he was in high school where he attempted suicide. He said a big reason for that was because he felt as if nobody cared for him, or that he wasn’t getting the attention he needed.

That’s not OK.

Change takes time, but, I think we can start doing better. Instead of ignoring those around you, embrace them, even if they can be difficult to be around at times.

Instead of keeping to yourself when you’re out around your community, try opening up a little and saying hi to random people, for instance.

Because you never know, that one simple gesture, that tiny slice of kindness that takes so very little effort to do, could end up saving someone’s life. It could be the affirmation someone needed to see that everything will be fine, and maybe they’ll think, “Even though I’ve messed up, even though I’ve dug myself into a hole so deep that the sky is barely visible, I’m still a person and I matter just as much as anyone else.”

That might be assuming a lot for what a simple hello can elicit, but, it’s a start and it can be a domino effect. One simple act of compassion can snowball into a huge movement.

Love will always be more powerful than hate, or loneliness or self-doubt. In times of great suffering, love can set us all free.

And that’s what “American Roulette” is all about. Which is why I support C.M. Russell High’s decision to show it next week.

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