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‘The Laramie Project’ covers sensitive topic

Photo courtesy of Felicity Grace Hacker ’10 | The Brophy Fall play “Laramie Project” analyzes first person accounts of a major civil rights issue in America.
Poster by Nate Kerber ’19

By Tyler Conrad ’17

Actors say the fall play “The Laramie Project” sought to address sensitive subjects with respect, yet head on to correctly portray the message and embody Brophy’s commitment to justice.

“‘The Laramie Project’ is the collection of interviews after the brutal murder of Mathew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student,” said actor Jack Toolan ’17.

The show is different from standard theatre, as it is based upon a true story and is made up of several interviews conducted by theatre majors instead of the standard dialogue-based narrative.

Toolan said that despite the uniqueness of the structure, there are few special effects in the production.

“The show is set up in different moments with video spliced in between,” he said. “No special lights or choreography, just the real and impactful words of the citizens of Laramie.”

Because of the interview-based format of the play, actors are cast in more than one role.

Both Toolan and Daniel Weinberger ’17 said this proved to be a fun challenge as performers.

“My first character is named Jedidiah Schultz … He was raised to think homosexuality is wrong, but throughout the play realizes how wrong he was,” Weinberger said.

Weinberger’s other characters include an apathetic student and a homosexual-bashing Baptist minister.

“This role is hard for me to play because he says terrible things to not only the people who interview him, but to the friends and family of Matthew Shepard,” Weinberger said of the second.

Because the play is based off a true event, the cast was instructed to research the event as a whole as well as the individual characters they portray.

Moe Dias, the director, wanted us to understand the events better since we weren’t alive to experience it at the time,” Toolan said.

Weinberger said seeing the real characters he portrays allowed him to bring a greater sense of empathy to his performance.

“It’s a pertinent part of this show, to put yourself in the shoes of those there,” he said.

The actors said a show of such mature subject matter has to be treated with extreme care, especially in the Brophy community.

“As Brophy students we are called to justice in the face of hate,” Toolan said. “The message has to be conveyed with the utmost care and responsibility. With the subject being what it is it adds more pressure than normal.”

Weinberger said even the more controversial details have to be included to present the show as it is meant.

“We have to do this show right or the message won’t get across,” Weinbergersaid.

Director of Scheduling and Student Activities Mr. Tony Oldani said the important message is why the play was chosen.

“Every couple of years we wanted to do a piece that not only was just edgy, but really brought out a social justice element that really left the kids with something to think about,” he said.

Mr. Oldani said the social justice aspect of the story is especially important at a Jesuit institution.

“It becomes something that meshes with the Grad at Grad and the Jesuit tradition of the school,” he said.

Mr. Oldani also said he wanted to put on the play to be inclusive to often ignored voices on campus, specifically those of gay students.

“We’ve done a good job as a school these past few years to identify what it is like to be X group on campus, and ensure everyone has a place in this brotherhood,” he said.

The Laramie Project ran Nov. 2, 3 and 5, and also Nov. 9, 10 and 12 in the Blackbox Theatre.

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