*Trigger Warning: Violent themes and homophobia*
On Wednesday, April 2 and Thursday, April 3, student theater group The White Room performed their production of The Laramie Project. Directed by senior Erica Burns, the cast consisted of eight St. Mary’s students ranging from theater veterans to first-years; senior Elizabeth Porter, sophomore Jordan Slattery, first-year Virginia Huber, first-year Dionna Bucci, senior Kreea Greaves, junior Julia Amick, first-year Henry Kramer, and first-year James Graham-Hayes all were assigned multiple characters and used a variety of props and costumes to indicate the different parts.
The play was performed as a staged reading, which meant that the actors performed while holding black binders with the scripts inside them. The actors all started out wearing a uniform of plaid shirts and jeans that reflected the rural area about which the play was written.
The Laramie Project was written following the 1998 murder of Laramie, Wyoming resident Matthew Shepard, a gay college student who was beaten and left for dead tied to a fence. The media sensationalized the murder and turned it into a symbol for hate crimes, which absolutely rocked the town of Laramie, a place known for its laid-back, casual attitude. While Laramie was a highly religious place (with emphasis from the Mormon church as well as Baptist and Catholic influences), the residents generally did not have any strong feelings towards the queer community, provided everyone kept to themselves.
The New York-based Tectonic Theater Project created the play through interviews with Laramie residents and turned the interviews into a script. The characters in the play all have the names and words of their real-life counterparts, which range from religious leaders to average residents to the girlfriends of the murderers to the doctor who treated Matthew Shepard. The script, which is primarily made up of monologues and acknowledges the interviewers’ presences (in fact, several characters are members of the Tectonic Theater Project), includes opinions on homosexuality, the murders, Laramie itself, the media reaction, Matthew Shepard, and so on.
At once funny, witty, poignant, touching, and disturbing, the play was performed both in Denver, Colorado (the closest major theater to Laramie) and in New York City. The play was also performed at St. Mary’s through the Theater, Film, and Media Studies Department (and directed by Professor Joanne Klein) in 2001. HBO also made a film adaption of the play in 2002, and it is available for streaming on hbogo.com.
Congratulations to the director, cast, and crew of this production for putting on such a challenging and emotionally engaging play.