Friday, November 13, 2009

Reader's Diary #544- Moisés Kaufman: The Laramie Project

Recently I auditioned for a role in Moisés Kaufman's The Laramie Project. I did so hardly knowing anything about the play or the story behind it. The last, and only time, I acted was in Iqaluit a couple years back as a murderer in Macbeth. I was itching to act again and was excited to finally have a chance in something here that wasn't a musical.

I have now have four roles. But, for those of you familiar with the play, most actors in it take multiple roles. I'm Father Roger Schmidt, Jon Peacock, Stephen Belber and Russell Henderson.

For those of you that don't know, The Laramie Project is based on the real life murder of Matthew Shepard. In 1998 Matthew, a gay university student from Laramie, Wyoming, was robbed, beaten, tied to a fence and left to die. I'm sad to say that though this made international headlines at the time, I remember nothing about it.

Five weeks after Matthew was discovered, Moisés Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Project showed up in Laramie, where they spent the year conducting interviews with residents of Laramie. From these interviews, they wrote The Laramie Project.

It's obviously an emotional story. But that doesn't necessarily translate into a good play. The Laramie Project risked being too black and white, too artificially sentimental, too militant. It's none of the above.

While taking a definite stance that Matthew Sheppard's murder was 100% wrong, it really goes beyond the death; the soul searching, the debates, the legacy one life can leave. Besides the obvious discussions on homophobia, Kaufman and company also delve into other such weighty issues as hate crimes, capital punishment, religion, revenge, forgiveness and much, much more.

Yet for all this, the play doesn't feel overly preachy or convoluted. Through the residents of Laramie, it shows humanity from all angles, and there's a glimmer of hope.

There's not much action, it's mostly talking, but the conversations are believable, interesting and forceful nonetheless.

I'm absolutely honoured to be a part of it.

Matthew was born in 1976, just twelve days before me.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

Break a leg!

I heard recently that this play is being revisted. I believe a sequel of sorts has been written.

Jason said...

I've seen the play a few years ago while attending the U of S. What really struck me is how the people of Laramie were quite shocked about being seen as a "hateful town" by outsiders.

It still amazes me that the action of one can affect soooo many.

Break a leg!

Unknown said...

Congratulations on getting four parts! This is a wonderful play. I saw it several years ago at Berkely Rep here in the Bay Area.

There is a sequal. The same people who worked on the first play went back and revisited most of the people that are featured in the first play. The also talked to one of the killers and I believe to Matthew Shepard's mother. Unfortunatley, I was not able to see it when I was performed, agains at Berkeley Rep last month.

There is a very good movie version of the first play available on DVD.

Remi said...

The one thing I learned in grade 13 drama was that I couldn't manage one role at a time. Doing four is impressive. Contratulations.

John Mutford said...

Barbara: Yes, it was a ten-year revisit piece. I'd love to read it.

Jason: I think they (the Laramie residents) could be the people of just about any town/city across the US and Canada.

CB: I'm aware of the DVD and while some people in the play are watching it, or have seen it, I don't think I want to until after I've performed.

Remi: Well don't be impressed yet, unless I pull it off.

Wanda said...

Sounds like a very interesting and worthwhile project to be involved with. Congrats on landing multiple roles -- hope you're fast in and out of your clothes though, that's alot of costume changes!