The Laramie Project: Being a Part of Something Bigger

By Ashley M. Adorno

In 1998, the people of Laramie, Wyoming, endured the tragic murder of a young gay man named Matthew Shepard, which was committed by two members of their own community. Matthew was brutally beaten and left to die while tied to a fence. To tell his story, Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater project company created a play called “The Laramie Project.” Matthew’s life and the impact of his death are relived throughout. On Nov. 10, 11, and 12 at 7pm in the Aquinas Theater, Mount Saint Mary College will earn the chance to experience Shepard’s, and the town of Laramie’s plight, through Professor James Phillips’s production.

In an interview with Phillips, he expressed that thematically, the play is not only about accepting a person for who they are, but also about a much larger picture of acceptance and responsibility.

He added the play reveals a healing process that involves how a community acknowledges an evil done among them, how they take responsibility for it and how they move forward from the incident. Phillips hopes to convey how moving forward entails “countering hate with love and countering violence with forgiveness, rather than condemning hate with more hate and violence with more violence.”

This is a message MSMC may be able to relate to due to the events having taken place over the past two years. Though the nature of those events were not violent, the community was torn apart. Friendships were lost. Phillips considers this to be a trauma the college has faced and with this play, he wishes to say to our community “how do you move past trauma, and how do you heal?”

Two cast members of the production, junior Steven Scodes and junior Tara Lockwood, share the same feelings about the message of the play.

“Accepting someone is one thing, but taking responsibility for your actions and accepting what’s been done in your community is another. We are all a part of something bigger,” Says Lockwood.

This will be Lockwood’s first show at MSMC. One of the characters she will play is an Islamic feminist named Zubaida Ula, who is a student at the University of Wyoming not afraid of speaking her mind.

Each actor and actress will not have one, but multiple characters to portray throughout the play. Normally, costume changes happen off stage, but this will not always be the case for The Laramie Project. The technique of onstage persona shifting illustrates an unrealistic form of theatrical style known as Brechtian or epic theatre and is only one of the many techniques Phillips will use to “consciously reminds the audience that (the play) is the story of (Matthew Shepard), not the real thing.”

In order to get a better understanding (of their character), each cast member put in a lot of time and effort to research their characters.

“Every character here is a real person,” according to Lockwood. “They aren’t made up characters. They are either living or breathing or there is an obituary out there for them because they died. Their life is something that you can learn from.”

Much time, energy, and commitment is required to not only be an actor, but also a student in college at the same time. Scodes learned how to manage his time when it came to rehearsals, studying his lines, and doing all of his schoolwork. This is not an easy task, as both Scodes and Lockwood advise students who are interested in participating in future productions to use any free time they have to get as much work done as they possibly can and not procrastinate.

The interviewed actors are planning to audition for the next production in the spring, and encourage others to do the same. “It’s a fun experience, which I think everyone should at least try once in their life,” says Scodes.

The theatre department is only just one facet of the MSMC community. The college, like The Larame Project, consists of many personalities and individuals from all different kinds of places. If there is anything the community takes away from this production, it is that no matter who we are as a student body, we will always have a place that accepts us.

The show will run Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of this week. For tickets, sign up at the Division of Arts and Letters in Aquinas Room 120.