Laramie showcases reality


First year Alexandra Smith, left, and junior Matthew Cebrosky, right, reciting their lines during practice for the upcoming show The Laramie Project in Lemmond Theater.

Alexandria Smith, Reporter

Cast and crew of the Laramie Project, a theatre production that highlights violence against the gay community, hopes to change attitudes and raise awareness about human rights issues.

The show will run March 29 to 31 at 8 p.m. in Lemmond Theatre.

The Laramie Project is a drama consisting of interviews with the residents of Laramie, Wyoming five months after the kidnapping and murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard in 1998. It was written by New York-based theatre group the Tectonic Theater Project five weeks after Shepard’s death.

Over a year-and-a-half, the Tectonic Theater Project conducted more than 200 interviews and wrote the play. The event’s aftermath, according to leader Moises Kaufman, launched the nation into “a dialogue that brought to the surface how we think and talk about homosexuality, sexual politics, education, class, violence, privileges and rights, and the difference between tolerance and acceptance.” It is one of the most performed plays in America today.

“Hate is…I don’t want this to be about a gay boy,” said Christine Rock, director of the Laramie Project. “Bullying is big now and it’s terrible that it’s happening. Kids can be cruel. I mean we’ve all been there. We’ve all been on both sides of the equation,” said Rock. “And that’s when you know, when Don and I sat down and we were talking about doing a show and I threw this one out there.”

Rock was initially concerned that the university would have reservations about the piece because of the hate-crime violence that inspired it, but he sees a great opportunity to start open discussion about the issues of violence and hatred in communities around the world. “When you discuss things and bring them out in the open that takes the power away, it takes the mystique away,” she said.

“I just want to show people how dangerous hate can be,” said sophomore stage manager Mikayla Gillete. “We all know it, we all talk about it but it’s different to actually see it portrayed in front of you.”

Senior Jeff Kelly shares similar feelings. “The people that are going to come see the show aren’t coming to see the show to leave here feeling horrible or upset,” he said.

Kelly hopes the performance will help the audience realize that hate-crime violence is a prevalent issue. “There’s so much hatred among different levels of people that just to kind of shed some light on that and make people think twice before you come out and say something that’s hurtful to someone [is important],” said Kelly. “Before you get angry or think differently about certain people, to understand that everyone is a person. There’s not one person that’s better than someone else just because of how they are, how they dress. It doesn’t make any one person’s life more valuable.”

Other cast members and crew, including Rock, Gillete, and Kelly, consider the production very personal because of their experiences with either lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender friends or family.

“I was surrounded by gay men so I have no issues whatsoever,” explains senior Sam Corey, who has a transgender sibling. “I had known quite a few people [that were gay] that I was close to, so… for me it is something that hits kind of close to home. I hadn’t known that going into the play. I didn’t know very much about the play when I originally auditioned. It’s definitely something I can relate to personally.”

“I just think acceptance would be a good thing for people to practice in their life,” says sophomore Joy Sy.

“Everything wonderful and magnificent and life affirming and changing in this world has started one person and an idea,” said Rock about shows like The Vagina Monologues and The Laramie Project, “Maybe it wasn’t a popular idea. Maybe it was a really stupid idea, but that’s where change comes from. It’s an idea and ideas are powerful.”

The Laramie Project stars Kaila Augustine, senior; Courtney Bieber, sophomore; Jasmine Mae Busi, sophomore; Melvin Jay Busi, first year; Matthew Cebrosky, junior; Samuel Corey, senior; Jeff Kelly, senior; Jackie Paluszek, sophomore; Grace Riker, junior; Mary Scarpa, senior; Alexandria Smith, first year; Joy Sy, sophomore.

Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for students and may be purchased at the Box Office outside of the theatre.