Monthly Archives: March 2012

Review: The Laramie Project

Whilst many people across Leicester were hitting the (alcohol) bottle, catching up with friends after a busy week or packing to go to Egypt (okay, that’s probably just my sister!!), me and a couple of my friends decided to go and see ‘The Laramie Project’ at Curve theatre. Now, this wasn’t the way that I usually like to spend my Friday nights, but I was so glad that I decided to swap catching up with ‘Jersey Shore’ to go and support my fellow DMUers.

I purposely didn’t research anything about the play because I wanted to see it with an open mind, but I was aware that ‘The Laramie Project’ had something to do with the murder of a gay university student named Matthew Shepard. Due to the fact that ‘The Laramie Project’ was a collaborative partnership between De Montfort University and Curve, I knew it wouldn’t be like anything else I had previously seen at the theatre. However, I was certain that it would be excellent!!

The play itself was split into two acts, with a twenty minute interval in between, and whilst it might not have been everyone’s cup of tea, it was definitely mine. Seriously, I was captivated right from the beginning up until the very end. I was so impressed by the acting and the way that it sort of dived straight into the story. You found yourself chucked in the middle of everything, trying to piece it all together. In addition, I liked the fact that the actors were addressing the audience throughout the play – bar two scenes (I think), because it kind of made it more personal and made me feel more involved.

I think the reason why I was so moved by the play (like many others, I’m sure) is because it’s a true story and uses the actual dialogue of the people of Laramie who were involved, people who are actually alive today. In fact, I was so moved by the play that as soon as I got home, I started researching the story myself and spent the next morning watching the 2002 film with the same name. In both the play I watched on Friday and the 2002 film, I found the monologue by the actor portraying Matthew’s father Dennis incredibly moving because in all the drama of it all, you sometimes forget that Matthew was someone’s son, brother, grandson, and friend.

Personally, I can’t believe that incidences like this can and do occur, because the way I see it is; love is love regardless of gender, age, religion and all the other constraints that people have placed on it. Hopefully, one day everyone will be able to look beyond the social constraints that have been placed on love and accept it for what it really is.

The DMU students involved in ‘The Laramie Project’ did an excellent job. They’re so talented and I hope to see them on stage again at some point in the near future.

If you’ve seen The Laramie Project or if you’ve got an opinion about the play/incident/etc, feel free to pop your thoughts in the comments box below.

Priya

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Ahead of The Laramie Project opening night

Ahead of The Laramie Project opening night, cast member Douglas Deans looks back on rehearsals and ahead to the run.

Its sunday the 11th, the day before our opening night. After a week of intense rehearsal, teching and finalising the cast and crew have been given a day off to rest. A calm before the storm one might say.

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Photo by Pam Raith

I look back at the last few months, at all the hours of work we’ve all put in, at he research into the truth of the story undertaken with great fondness. I suppose its a bit of an affectation, but this play has moved me in a way that a play hasn’t done so before. Its been touched upon by the other cast members, but I suppose its quite simply because the whole emotional affair is a true story. The play tells of how one tragic event can impact so greatly upon so many peoples lives. Those who had nothing to do with it are dragged into the saga one way or another, and they have no choice but to play thier part. The play serves to give these people a voice, and prove that Laramie, Wyoming is not a place ‘defined by an accident’.

The play itself is constructed purely through dialogue with very few hints of stage direction. When I first read the script, I couldn’t help but feel that it was saying ‘here is the story, its up to you how you tell it’. As a company, it felt like we had a duty to tell this story in the most honest way we could. There was the moment where when we began looking further into the story, the news reports, the interviews, the testimonials, pictures of Laramie, pictures of the fence, that we realised our task.

I won’t say too much more, I will leave the rest for you to decide when you come and see it. For me, this play is a testimonial for a town which had so much to say, but no way of saying it. It truely sums up the phrase “there’s nought so queer as folk”.

The Laramie Project runs at Curve 12 – 17 March.

Tickets only £5 or play and a pint for £7

The Laramie Project is a collaborative partnership between Curve Theatre and De Montfort University, performed by DMU students and directed by Josh Seymour.

The Laramie Project

The Laramie Project by cast member Anna Cohen

Being someone who celebrates the fact that life is made up of different people, all individuals believing different things and being who they are, or who they are told to be at times, I believe that the world would not be the same if it wasn’t for this variation. If everyone thought the same, then what kind of boring world would this be? I therefore feel that preaching is not a great activity as I feel enforcing your opinions on to other people, so strongly in some cases, is not fair or reasonable as we all have our own minds and should embrace this.

I recently attended the Gay Pride parade in Tel Aviv, Israel.  I had great fun, the spirit and atmosphere was so high and triumphant! I feel as though it may come across as defensive to mention that I personally am straight, however I do not use it to defend the fact that I’m not gay, instead I use it to show that the support of the heterosexual community is just as important as the strong sense of togetherness that the homosexual community have themselves.

Therefore, by being a cast member of The Laramie Project, I feel a strong sense of support for the story of Matthew Shepard and can proudly voice the different thoughts and stories of the members of Laramie. The deadly event that occurred in 1998 caused much controversy and outrage, people wanting to defend their home town, like old Alison Mears who tells us how Laramie is ‘S.O.L’, or to defend their religion, like the twisted Fred Phelps, a Baptist Christian minister who enrages many by telling us that ‘God hates fags’, or most importantly to defend Matthew, like his father Dennis Shepard, who tells us how Matthew was ‘a winner’.

Anna (left) in The Laramie Project rehearsals, photo by Madeleine Burke

A character I play, Zubaida Ula, talks about how she too is different, being a muslim girl she is part of a minority in her local town as well and tells us how people can’t comprehend and ask infuriatingly impolite questions about why she feels the need to stand out, even if they are aware it is for religious reasons. There is so much ignorance in the world, and for people who are not open minded, sometimes they just wish not to understand. I also play Kristin Price, the murderer’s girlfriend, who explains how Aaron Mckinney, the perpetrator, ‘wanted to teach [Matthew] a lesson not to come on to straight people’. This is a great illustration of the oblivion that led to the attack in the first place. I have to sit in my chair and embody Kristin for a while before she speaks so that the lines are spoken with complete detachment from my own personal views. As my fellow cast members have mentioned, these are real people, so using the word ‘character’ seems incorrect and all the more important for us to ‘do our best to say it correct’.I look forward to sharing The Laramie Project with Leicester and De Montfort University at Curve Theatre and hope that the members of Tectonic Theater company would be proud of our performance. I think it is amazing how each one of us have felt so emotionally attached to this story, a truly well written and put together play that will pull the heartstrings of many.The Laramie Project runs at Curve 12 – 17 March.

Tickets only £5 or play and a pint for £7

The Laramie Project is a collaborative partnership between Curve Theatre and De Montfort University, performed by DMU students and directed by Josh Seymour.

DMU students get ready to stage The Laramie Project

Cast member and DMU student, Jonny McClean give an update on The Laramie Project as they prepare for tech week in The Studio at Curve.

When I first was told about the Laramie project, I had no idea what it was about, and I must say I wish I had. It is an absolute privilege to be a part of a play of this kind with a talented cast and director onboard, I hope the audiences find watching it as moving as I have found reading and performing it. I think there is a wish in the cast to get the characters of this play `right`. It has been a markedly different experience to perform this play than any other mainly down to the fact that the characters are real people, many of whom are still alive today. This dynamic has added a focus on the truth of the emotion and being natural onstage rather than any dramatic focus, the drama comes from the fact that you know that beyond these representations is a real person who said these exact words, and went through this exact situation.

I’m beginning to be pleased with the way I’m portraying my characters now, still not quite there yet but close with most; the biggest challenge is portraying Dennis Shepard (Matthew’s father). I very much want to get his character `right`. The more I’ve researched the incident, Dennis as a man and the speeches and way he talks about his son, the more determined I’ve become to give this man the respectful, honest, and truthful portrayal he deserves. So…big, scary challenge.

All in all it’s going great, very excited to get all the tech and costume up on it’s feet and be ready in time for show week!

The Laramie Project runs at Curve 12 – 17 March.
Tickets only £5 or play and a pint for £7

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