When the play “The Warriors” opens, an actress named Mary Hollis Inboden is on a date in a Chicago restaurant. As is often the case in the 21st century, her date has typed her name into Google, and he’s discovered something he wants to talk about—an NPR interview she did a few years ago.
“They introduced you as school shooting survivor Mary Hollis Inboden,” her date says. “That’s unreal.”
Maybe not. “The Warriors” is a collaboration between Chicago actress Mary Hollis Inboden and her friend Evan Linder, a playwright. The play’s main character bears more than a passing resemblance to the real-life Inboden.
“The play is pretty dead on,” Inboden confirmed, “really true to life.”
Inboden survived a school shooting in Jonesboro, Arkansas in 1998. Inboden was in the sixth grade at Westside Middle School when two boys opened fire from the woods just beyond the playground. Inboden’s best friend was killed along with a teacher and three other students.
Just like in the play, the real-life Inboden was interviewed on NPR’s Morning Edition. The interview happened shortly after the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007 and host Renee Montagne asked Inboden, “What would you say to the students at Virginia Tech?”
“Definitely, definitely to keep the people who were there, who have been affected, close,” Inboden replied for the record, “because those are the people that you are going to share a very, very, very hard bond with for the rest of your life, and to have those people close will provide the students a lot of comfort in years to come.”
But that wasn’t what Inboden was doing.
“I hadn’t talked or heard from anybody that was on the playground with me during the shooting at my school in years,” Inboden said. “The play was sparked from my hypocrisy.”
The title “The Warriors” is a nod to the old Westside Middle School mascot. In order to write the play Inboden got in touch with her old schoolmates and fellow survivors and conducted extensive interviews. She’s close with the group now and she believes she gave the students at Virginia Tech good advice, “Every time I talk to my fellow shooting survivors now, in the days after creating “The Warriors,” we’re not drudging anything up,” Inboden explained. “It’s just when another shooting happens, there are messages of love and support.”
Inboden and Linder will read from their play at The Circuit Playhouse tonight at 7 p.m. Proceeds from the performance will go to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund, a charity for families affected by the recent mass shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, and the Memphis Gun Down Program, an anti-violence initiative created by Mayor A C Wharton.
Linder said writing “The Warriors” has taught him, “That sadness doesn’t go away, and that life-long journey of being a survivor never goes away. So, as long as these things keep happening on playgrounds and in classrooms … we’re still always going to have kids who have something life-long ahead of them.”