A hate crime will come to life on stage as the Quinnipiac University Theatre Program performs the first production of “The Laramie Project” on Feb. 28 at 8 p.m. in Buckman Theatre.
The play is the story of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old student at the University of Wyoming, who was beaten to death in 1998 near Laramie, Wyo., because he was gay.
The script for the play was made by members of New York’s Tectonic Theatre Project, according to sophomore stage manager and vice president of the Quinnipiac Theatre Workshop Sue Dering. Members of the group interviewed people after the incident and compiled their comments into a script.
Dering said that the script has “strong messages about hope, perseverance and toleration that will move people of any age and, based on the age of students involved in the incident, will be very touching to college students.”
Sophomore assistant stage manager and mass communications/theatre major Nikki Levine describes the show as intense.
“It is extremely powerful and interesting because it is not your usual theatre piece. You have to see it to understand the intensity of it,” she said.
Dr. Crystal Brian, associate professor of theatre and director of the Quinnipiac University Theatre Program, said that she selected “The Laramie Project” because “in in light of the Sept. 11 tragedy, such a powerful play dealing with issues of community and the ways in which we are connected-and divided-was particularly relevant.”
Brian said that the play is a challenging one to put on, but that the students in the cast and crew are very dedicated to it.
“They have tackled a very difficult play and are working extremely hard. I’m very proud of them,” she said.
One element of the play is different from other plays, according to Levine, and that is that all the actors are on stage at the same time and play more than one role.
Freshman Allison Clark, a mass communications/theatre major, said that she is one of 12 actors in the play and that each actor plays up to eight different characters throughout the show.
“One minute I am playing Matt’s close friend, Romaine, and the next minute I am playing the boy who finds him,” said Clark.
Clark said that it is important to focus on the physical and behavioral traits to differentiate between the different characters. She credits Dr. Brian with making the actors so good at playing different roles.
“Dr. Brian taught us that little things such as mannerisms, the tone of your voice and even the speed in which a character speaks, all come into play,” said Clark.
Sophomore theatre major Dave Brand is another actor who will play numerous roles in “The Laramie Project.”
“I am very fortunate to be playing several contrasting roles, including a gay liberalist, a murderer and a judge,” said Brand.
Brand said that playing different roles is challenging, but not something he cannot handle.
“I always enjoy a good challenge, and I think I can learn a lot about character work from doing this play,” he said.
A talkback session will be held after each performance for “those audience members who would like to stay and share their views about the play and the issues it highlights,” Brian said.
The show runs through Mar. 2. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $5 for students and senior citizens.
“The Laramie Project” is not the only show planned for this year.
According to Brian, the Theatre Workshop (the student theatre group at Quinnipiac) is currently producing the “One Act Play Festival.”
She said that this production is a series of student written, student directed and student produced one act plays.
The Theatre Workshop will also put on a production of Eric Bogosian’s “Suburbia” in April, Brian said. Senior Neil Breen will direct the play.
The University Theatre Program also has further plans for the year, according to Brian.
She said that it will host the Long Wharf Guest Artist Series, a series of lectures by various artists from New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre.
Brian said that members of the Theatre Program are also working with students at Highville Mustardseed Charter School in New Haven to create a series of original plays based on the students’ own experiences.
She said these plays will be produced and performed as part of the Highville Mustardseed Model United Nations event in May.
The Theatre Workshop and University Theatre Program are two different groups.
“I think it is an optimal structure when the University Theatre Program can work with the student group in maximizing our resources,” said Brian.
Brian said she is eager to have students join the theatre activities, productions, workshops and classes.
If interested, contact Dr. Crystal Brian at x8394 or email her at [email protected]