By: Tim Wilmes ~Sports Editor~
The Xavier University Department of Music & Theatre gave students the opportunity to attend a live reading of “The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later” to cap off the two-week showing of Michael Perlman and Fault Line Theatre’s play “From White Plains.”
The two-hour reading was built upon original work in 1998, “The Laramie Project,” which students in the Xavier University Department of Music & Theatre read on Feb. 15. The first play was based on more than 200 interviews in Laramie, Wyo. conducted by the Tectonic Theatre Project after the assault and murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student.
After 10 years, the company returned to Laramie to grasp the effect the traumatic event had on the town. Again, the Tectonic Theatre Project produced a play in 2008 based on interviews and journal entries about the Laramie community and, more broadly, how society chooses to write its own history. The reading, which took place in the Gallagher Student Center Theatre, was wonderfully and effectively informal and powerful in its normalcy.
The show revealed that the horrific and homophobic actions done and statements made in Laramie could have happened anywhere. Throughout the reading, each cast member sat in a line and read five to 12 different roles.
Often, the same actor would read two different roles that had opposing viewpoints, effectively highlighting the differences between the Wild West values of Wyoming and the values of the 21st century while also underscoring each character’s personal impressions. This idea was well-sold, as the audience’s minds were forced to go back and forth between seeing everyday college students reading a play to imagining the characters alive, right before their eyes.
The reading in itself certainly added depth to Xavier’s featured show “From White Plains” which examined the issue of bullying, the relationships between those close to us and those who appear to be aggressors, leaving the audience with a multitude of questions. After the reading of “The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later,” the actors, audience and Director of Theatre Stephen Skiles shared their thoughts and questions about the play.
Many noticed the dichotomy of change without progress within the play, particularly in the way that citizens’ viewpoints, laws and university coverage for gay couples had not significantly progressed. Furthermore, the humanity of Shepard’s killer Aaron McKinney was shown in the play through an interview.
Despite being incredibly chilling, McKinney’s interview highlighted human beings’ tendency to stick to their own values and act on insecurities, as we are challenged to see the aggressor as a victim as well. Ultimately, the reading of “The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later” was a successful end to an incredibly thought-provoking two weeks for the Xavier University Theatre. The play was no different in the way that it got its audience to ask questions. “It is a thought play, more intellectual, more about the community and about change,” Skiles said. “What is change, what is progress and what is the real fight?