Published on September 23rd, 2013 | by TLV News0
Ole Miss Theatre Presents: The Laramie Project (Performances from September 26 – October 6, 2013)
Ole Miss Theatre kicks off its new season on Thursday, September 26th with The Laramie Project, the first of its “Beyond Boundaries” productions, which are designed to raise awareness and understanding of the commonalities that unite the human condition. Although our heritage, sexual orientation, or background may be different, as individuals we all experience joy, love, and pain.
On October 6th, 1998, Matthew Shepard was severely beaten and left to die, tied to a fence in the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming. He died six days later. That November, Moisés Kaufman and fellow members of the Tectonic Theatre traveled to Laramie and conducted interviews with the people of the town. From these interviews they wrote The Laramie Project, which has become one of the most performed plays in America in the last decade. The company later made the play into a film for HBO. The play and the movie have been seen by more than 50 million people around the world. The Laramie Project, structured as a documentary, attempts to reenact the events that occurred on that fateful night.
Ole Miss Theatre’s powerful production is directed by Rory Ledbetter, who says it “examines the humanity and beliefs behind all the facets of the Matthew Shepard murder trial. The characters’ words aren’t just specific to Laramie, but are voices that can be heard all over our nation and right here in Oxford.” Ledbetter continues, “At a time in our history where we’ve made so much progress, this play speaks to us and challenges us to move beyond the hate and prejudices that still permeate the depths of our psyches.”
Ledbetter and the 11 student actors involved in the production have poured their hearts and souls into making the 70-plus characters real and three-dimensional.
One of the actors, Junior Ole Miss Theatre student Garrison Gibbons, said that The Laramie Project is “a different kind of show in the fact that we as actors are playing multiple characters. This is both difficult and exciting. It is hard to make character voices, physicality, and choices for so many characters, but it forces us as actors to expand our horizons and get out of our comfort zone a bit.”
Gibbons has a special connection to the material. He lost a brother, who was gay, to suicide after a long battle with depression. The connection doesn’t stop there. “As a gay teenager,” he says, “I connect so much with the struggle Matthew must have faced, and I hope he would be proud of the work we as a country have done for gay rights.”
From the very first read-through tears were shed in more than one section of the script, and the emotional journey has only increased over the rehearsal period.
“On the first day of rehearsal we read through the script as a cast with barely any character work, and almost everyone was in tears by the the end of the read,” says actress Jade Genga, a Senior Theatre Arts student. She continues, “This show blows my mind because it’s true. Every character is a real person who actually experienced Laramie during the Matthew Shepard incident. Honestly, the most amazing thing for me is that these people still found humor and goodness in spite of the hatred. It’s been life changing.”
Performances are Thursday, September 26–Sunday, September 29, and Tuesday, October 1–Sunday, October 6 at 7:30pm. There will also be matinee performances on the weekends of September 28–29 and October 5–6 at 2pm. All shows will be in Meek Auditorium.
Season tickets are $40. Individual Tickets are $12.50 for adults, $9.00 for Ole Miss students, and $8.00 for Seniors/Children. For ticket information, please contact the UM Box Office, (662) 915-7411.
This article originally appeared in TLV #188 (published September 19, 2013) – Click here to purchase PDF of this issue.