by Kayla Murphy
Over the course of the week hundreds attended the play “The Laramie Project” showcased by The Central Connecticut State University Department of Theatre every night from Feb. 28, to March 4, at 7:30 p.m. There was a Friday matinee and admission was free for students Tuesday, Wednesday night and Friday morning.
Originated by the Tectonic Theatre Project in 2000, “The Laramie Project” is a documentary-play that focuses on hundreds of real-life interviews about the reaction to the 1998 murder of gay college student Matthew Shephard in Laramie, Wyoming. The murder was declared as a hate-crime and brought attention to the lack of hate-crime laws in several states, including Wyoming. The show was divided into two acts and 13 cast members portrayed over 60 characters in a series of short scenes.
Director of the show and Theatre professor, Thom Delventhal, chose a show that touched upon many current events and issues, such as LGBTQ rights, religion and the use of media coverage.
“I’ve been looking for a simple, concrete message in the play that can help society heal,” said Delventhal. “So many people that voted for Trump said they did so because they were sick of not being listened to. But now that he is in office, the danger many immigrants, women, Muslims, people with disabilities, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community feel, have increased dramatically. Government is completely divided along party lines.”
Senior Theatre major, Nick Carrano, enjoyed working with such a close-knit cast and touching upon very important issues.
“In the end, we’re all human,” Carrano said, “Regardless of race, or religion, or sexuality, it’s not hard to accept people. Hate will never win; that legacy will never win. Love is what matters. I think this show does a good job portraying that love. ‘The Laramie Project’ is a cultural revolution and is a life lesson that I hope the audience understands,” Carrano said.
However, performing such a moving piece comes with challenges. Both Carrano and his fellow actor Jose Roman, a senior Communication major, had difficulties with accents and voices.
“I played the roles of Andy Paris, Matt Mickleson, Bill McKinney, Andrew Gomez, Kerry Drake and Cal Rerucha,” said Roman, “The most challenging part was coming up with different and distinct accents that the audience would be able to identify. Thom taught us to keep our voices loud and clear. We were able to adapt to it very quickly.”
Another challenge the crew faced was the costume changes for over 60 different characters.
Christopher Hoyt, scenic and costume designer, had the idea for all the cast members to wear black.
“We wanted them to be costumed in all black with different costume pieces to accent their character change. Our wardrobe was actually set on stage, which was an intricate part in the story telling. For the most part, every character was on stage; very rarely would they be backstage,” said Hoyt.
The most notable costume pieces were the angel wings worn by several cast members to block Reverend Freed Phelps, played by sophomore theatre major Kendra Garnett, from disrupting and protesting Matthew Shephard’s funeral.
“We took hiking backpack frames and lots of muslin material to create the frame of the wings. In the show, the cast plays reporters constantly writing notes and ripping them off. My students Haley Nelson and Alex Corey came up with the idea to take those notes and pin them onto the wings to create ‘feathers.’ It was a very creative and genius idea,” Hoyt added.
Overcoming quick costume changes and different mid-west dialects, the cast and crew performed their hearts out.
Delventhal’s final thoughts were, “We must listen to the stories of others without reacting or judging. We have to listen without being offended.”
The next show the Theatre Department will be hosting is the musical “Into the Woods” from April 25, to April 30. Tickets will be available at CENtix Box Office, located in the Student Center.