Photo courtesy of Xavier Theatre
The Laramie Project and The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later chronicle the journey of one podunk town in finding its identity after mourning a tragedy on live television. The story of Matthew Shepard, a victim of what was once determined by trial to be a hate crime, had his story dragged back into the spotlight year after year. Each time the truth was blurred more and more by Laramie’s desire to erase its shady history. Convenient rumors replaced the truth. Whether or not the truth is comfortable, the evidence portrayed in these scripts asserts that Shepard was murdered because he was gay.
In a time where fact checking is essential to avoid biased media, this story contains truth not only about the harsh realities of the marginalized and the lethal nature of homophobia, but about my duty as a journalist, even on a small-scale newspaper, to stay grounded in fact.
While the cast had a general working knowledge of both shows, each play had separate casts, separate directors and separate goals in mind.
“I think the shows are so vastly different,” Bridget Leak, director of The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later, said. “I think the writing has changed in the 10 years as well.”
Thomas Wehby, a first-year cast member of The Laramie Project, described Ten Years Later as “very minimalistic” in that it offered mostly facts compared to the story told by the first Laramie Project.
Both shows were written in docudrama style, a form of writing that left me turning to my friend at intermission and saying, “This would have made a great documentary.” And it did. The “characters,” otherwise known as the real residents of Laramie and the real members of the Tectonic Theater Project, performed “lines,” otherwise known as the real things these people said.
The set was simplistic and enlisted the help of videos and images from the original news coverage as well as a particularly poignant photo of the fence where Matthew Shepard was left to hang.
The acting wasn’t flashy or dramatic, and although at times I would have liked more variance in physicality or tone of voice among the different characters played by the same actors, I understand the difficulty of doing justice to the real people one tries to represent.
Some of the line memorization was shaky, and I would have liked to have seen more passion in a few of the characters, but as a whole the shows were well done and left me with chills and tears.
Overall, I would give The Laramie Project 3.5 stars, and The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later 4 stars. A script like this one is still essential today, and I am so pleased to see Xavier Theatre’s dedication to “be a light.”
By: Brittany Wells ~Staff Writer~