Rather than a reenactment of events, the play is structured as a series of monologues, taken from actual interviews with the real people of Laramie. The theater company members also serve as characters in the play and as narrators, introducing each speaker. All of these interviews put together provide a narrative of events, as well as illustrate life in Laramie, a typical American college town, before and after the tragedy. The simple and bare sloped stage with 12 chairs allows space for the story to be told, as the actors move themselves and their chairs around the space in different formations.
|the cast of The Laramie Project|
My first experience with The Laramie Project was a staged reading in October of 2008, the 10th anniversary of Matthew's death, directed by Peter Rothstein and featuring T.R. Knight and a cast of local talents. Matthew's mother Judy, who has turned her personal tragedy into a career in activism and righting the wrongs that lead to Matthew's death (including the passage of The Matthew Shepard Act in 2009), was in attendance that night. So I was fully aware what a powerful and important piece of theater this is, and I couldn't be more pleased that a community theater in Anoka is tackling this project and doing such a beautiful job. With the exception of some candlelight choreography at the end that went on a bit too long for me, the whole production is extremely well-done, from the simple set to the subtle intricacies of the costume changes to the sound and lighting setting the scene.
Two quotes from the people of Laramie stick with me. One is by Romaine, who said that the people of Laramie (and, I think, this country) need to own this tragedy and not just ignore it or pretend it didn't happen. Another character said about the perpetrators, "we don't grow children like that here, but obviously we do grow children like that here." At its best, theater can give us a forum to understand and explore the most difficult and important issues of our time, and that's what this play does. I highly recommend that people get out and see this important work of theater (playing at Lyric Arts now through Sept. 22); trust me, it's worth the drive to Anoka (discount tickets available on Goldstar).