Category Archives: The Laramie Project

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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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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Getting to know The Laramie Project

Photo by Briony Latter

The De Montfort University and Curve collaboration, The Laramie Project continues in rehearsal this week. Cast member, Kirsty Mealing took some time out to let us know how she’s been getting to know the piece better and developing her many roles.

I don’t think I have ever been quite so grateful to be doing a play, let alone being introduced to one, as I have been with ‘The Laramie Project’. The more and more we have been looking at the script and giving life to the characters, the more I’ve realised quite how much the play is about people. This is Verbatim Theatre: every word is what a real person has said, so every single word is important. As Joe said in his previous blog entry, you do feel a responsibility to do your character justice in their portrayal. And that doesn’t mean you should be the perfect mirror of them, it means you should say every word as though they are true ,and honest, to you. I think working on my characters and developing them with each rehearsal has allowed me to realise the honesty in which they speak, and it feels incredible!

Individually, the cast have been watching Louis Theroux’s documentary, where he visited the Westboro Baptist Church. It has been difficult to even be able to compute how these people can hate so much, and so passionately. Watching the documentary has definitely put fuel to the fire in the scene in which Fred Phelps , his followers, and ‘Angel Action’ go head to head: it’s becoming a really powerful moment.

One role I have been anxious to get ‘right’ is Reggie Fluty, the 39 year old Police Officer who dealt with Matthew’s body at the fence. As her story develops, you can see that she is a perfect example of how one horrific crime can affect the people in the community. What I love about her is her dedication to her job, she tries to help Matthew wholeheartedly: it’s immensely refreshing to play someone with such a big personality who is willing to put herself at risk in order to do her job to the of her abilities. I am genuinely proud to be playing her.

We are getting our character costume pieces this week, and I’m excited to see what Reggie and the other people I am playing will have. It’s just so exciting to see everything get pieced together now.

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

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DMU students in rehearsals for The Laramie Project

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A cast of performers from the Drama programme at DMU are currently in rehearsals for ‘The Laramie Project’: a powerful piece of theatre based on interviews with the inhabitants of Laramie, Wyoming, following the brutal murder of a young man in 1998.

Cast member, Joe Middleton, took some time during rehearsals to let us know how he’s discovering the piece and its characters and what audiences can expect from the play:

“Rehearsals for The Laramie Project are now in full swing, with most of the play loosely blocked with a skeleton structure to now build upon!

I’m really enjoying developing each character stage by stage and this is even easier now that my lines are near enough learnt. You feel such a responsibility for the characters that you are portraying because of the fact that every word spoken is true. Poignant moments of mine within the play include a moment with Stephen Mead Johnson, a Unitarian chuch minister, when he’s describing the fence where Matthew Shepherd was tied to and killed, and how its become almost a pilgrimage site for visitors to the town. Imagining the place where Matthew Shepherds brutal beating took place creates such a spiritual feel for the moment and is quite difficult to portray in order to do it justice, but I will get there!

Today in rehearsals, we used this moment and conducted an improvisation in which I took a group of people to the fence. This helped me to grasp the sense of spirituality that the character would have felt from going out there, and convey it much more effectively in my monologue. Another role which I’ve been working on extensively is the character of Harry Woods, a 52 year old gay man who describes the homecoming parade that he wanted to march with in Matthew Shepherds name. However, he recounts how he was unfortunately unable to march that day because of a cast on his leg due to a fall, so he had to watch from his window. It is quite a touching moment in the play, and really pulls with your heartstrings as he becomes so emotionally overwhelmed by the amount of people he sees marching for Matthew. Conveying this moment in the monologue with a true sense of realism was difficult at first but now I’ve developed a much greater connection with the character and am therefore able to understand where he is coming from. I think I feel sorry for the fact that he was unable to join the march that day but also happy that, as he says in the speech, ‘He got to see this in his lifetime’.

Tomorrow is a full loose run of the play, and with lines learnt, I can’t wait to put all that I have worked on together and hopefully feel a great sense of fulfillment for the work we have done so far.”

The Laramie Project runs at Curve 12 – 17 March.

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