Monday, June 4, 2012

Valencia's inspired leap into 'The Laramie Project'


     Issues of hate turned into senseless violence will be presented with a technically innovative style by members of the Valencia College Theater starting Thursday, June 7, exposing the consequences in “The Laramie Project,” about the actual murder of college student Matthew Shepard.

     “Be prepared for some serious subject matter,” said Julia Gagne, the play's director, referencing the language and content of this production, which is amplified by its detailed account of Shepard’s death.

     The powerful material also comes with a warning for more sensitive viewers and minors. Because of adult language and violent subject matter no one under the age of 13 will be admitted.

     Openly gay college student Matthew Shepard was assaulted, tied to a fence and left for dead for over 18 hours in the small town of Laramie, Wyo. in 1998. This was seen as a hate crime, and the reaction of the town and the rest of the nation changed its residents and the image of small-town America forever.

     This play was originally written by Moises Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project, who worked to capture the full story of what happened in Laramie. Months following the murder and for a year afterward they conducted over 200 interviews with members of the town and others involved with the events on that day.

     This play is an interpretation of key moments and all the information and interviews gathered. It is presented in a way that shows the thought process that leads to hate and the results that can come about.

     The ensemble of lead actors have a uniquely challenging aspect in this performance. The eight of them have to portray over 60 different characters, most of which are reoccurring and all with small changes, not total transformation. The names of individuals are giving when they speak to the audience and only changes in dialogue, mannerisms and dress can complement the actor’s roles. This all has to be transitioned with quick timing throughout the entire production.

     As the national media at the time descended onto Laramie, they also move in to subjugate the middle act of this production. Several reporters and TV cameramen bring out an oversized mobile media tower containing 11 television monitors, and they all begin to zealously cover on the story and interact with the main characters.

     16 different actors, including the eight central ensemble members, have to organize all of this activity within an arena audience configuration with spectators sitting on four sides of a central set. This creates quite a blocking and organizational challenge for director Gagne, who has directed nearly 100 plays throughout her career but only four or five have been with this type of arena format.

     Tickets will coast $10 for general admission, and $8 for Valencia faculty, staff and students. A $2 discount is available with online ticket purchases by using the purchase code “VALENCIAWEB” at http://bit.ly/TheLaramieProject.

     The shows will start at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 7 through Saturday, 9, with a 2 p.m. show on Sunday, 10, and will finish with a run Thursday, June 14 through Saturday, 16, all starting at 7:30 p.m, with a final performance at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 17.

     All information about this and other upcoming Valencia performance can be found at http://www.valenciacollege.edu/arts.

By James Tutten
info@jamestutten.com

(Published: June 6, 2012 issue of "Valencia Voice" on page 5.)

(All photos by James Tutten)






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