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Reflecting on 'Laramie'

March 2014

The SAU Theatre Department recently closed the production of The Laramie Project by Moises Kaufmann.

The Laramie Project is a collection of interviews with people of Laramie, Wyoming about the murder of Matthew Shepard. In 1998, Shepard, 21, was beaten because he was gay. He was then tied to a fence outside of Laramie and later died in a hospital. His murder raised many hate-crime questions around the country. The Tectonic Theatre Company spent over a year conducting over 200 interviews with the people of Laramie in order to write this play.

The rehearsal process was a quick one. Auditions were held before Christmas break, the cast was chosen, and they had their first read-through. After a month of holiday break, the cast came back, their lines completely memorized, and work started on getting the show performance-ready in about 4 weeks. For the cast and crew, it was a stressful time, but in the end it paid off.

After each performance there was a talk back. This allows the audience to ask the cast or director any questions they had about the show. Many audience members asked how the actors felt about the material of the show and how they dealt with putting on such an emotional performance. Many cast members said that they took their personal emotions into their characters and let them help portray the characters.

At almost every talk-back the director, Daniel Rairdin-Hale, was asked why he chose this play.

"This is still an important show," he said, "even though the events that inspired it happened 15 years ago. Things like this are still happening."

Many states have now passed laws that have to do with hate-crimes specifically; however, Wyoming is not one of them.

"We had an important effect on our audience," said cast member sophomore Shannon Rourke. "It was a very meaningful experience for me and I'm very proud that we were able to share Matthew Shepard's story and honor the people in Laramie, Wyoming."

"The show was really informative while being entertaining," said audience member and sophomore Kerrie Morenz. "There were parts I didn't think need to be there, but as a whole I thought that the Ambrose theatre department did a good job of telling Matthew Shepard's story."

Overall, the performances of The Laramie Project were a success.

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