BWW Interview: Brandy Joe Plambeck of THE LARAMIE PROJECT at The Ringwald Says It's A Wonderful Way To Learn About & Remember The Events From 20 Years Ago

BWW Interview: Brandy Joe Plambeck of THE LARAMIE PROJECT at The Ringwald Says It's A Wonderful Way To Learn About & Remember The Events From 20 Years Ago

This weekend in honor of Matthew Shepard, 20 years after his murder, The Ringwald presents a four-show engagement of The Laramie Project, a landmark play by Moises Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project. Performances begin Friday, September 14th and run through Monday, September 17th at The Ringwald in Ferndale. The Laramie Project remains an important piece of work in the political climate of 2018 and is an inspiration for director and Ringwald co-founder, Brandy Joe Plambeck, who is also a Wyoming native. BroadwayWorld Detroit had a chance to speak with the director before the show opens this weekend.

BroadwayWorld Detroit: Can you give our readers a brief background of yourself and then your theatre career as an introduction?

Brandy Joe Plambeck: I grew up in a small town in Wyoming named Cody. I went got my Bachelor's in Theatre from the University of Northern Colorado and shortly after met my Michigan-native husband, Joe Bailey, on the road with a touring theatre company. We moved to Michigan about 15 years ago and began a theatre company named Who Wants Cake? which morphed into The Ringwald Theatre in downtown Ferndale a little over 11 years ago. We are known as a little bit quirky; a little bit gay; a little bit unexpected. We originally wanted to start a "gay theatre" in the area, but soon found that we wanted to do all sorts of things. Even though we might possibly be the gayest theatre in town, we don't want to be known exclusively as one thing or another.

BWW Detroit: How would you describe The Laramie Project in your own words?

Brandy Joe Plambeck: The Laramie Project is a play compiled of interviews from the townsfolk of Laramie, Wyoming by The Tectonic Theater Project. The interviews focus on the murder of gay college student, Matthew Shepard, and how the town (and the people in it) have been affected by the tragedy. It is an unbiased examination of a small town both during and in the aftermath of making national headlines.

BWW Detroit: What made you want to direct The Laramie Project?

Brandy Joe Plambeck: This play has always held a special place in my heart. I remember first hearing about it when my high school buddy, Jedadiah Schultz, told me that Tectonic had come to Laramie and had been interviewing folks about the murder. A couple years later, the play burst onto the scene including interviews with people I knew growing up and surrounding topics that were so very close to me. I've always wanted to do a production and it felt like the 20-year anniversary of Matthew Shepard's death was the perfect time to do it. We still experience hatred in our world today, perhaps we always will, but this play is an amazing microscope peering at how hatred can affect the people around it and I think it's just as powerful today as when it first premiered.

BWW Detroit: Besides growing up there, did you do any special research in preparing to direct and perform in the show?

Brandy Joe Plambeck: Growing up a closeted gay man in a small Wyoming town was the main "research" I did in preparation for this show. It is a huge part of the themes of the play, although not exclusive to Wyoming at all. It really is about community and hatred and how the media can spin a world out of control. I have also reached out to my friends from childhood (Romaine Patterson, Jedadiah Schultz, and April Silva) to see if they can reflect on the past 20 years and how things have changed (or not) for them. I am excited to hear from them and intrigued to find out what they have to say.

BWW Detroit: You have a very personal connection to the show, do you think that makes it harder or easier to be a part of?

Brandy Joe Plambeck: I think my personal connection to the show makes it easier to be a part of. I know this world and these people so very well and I can offer insight and reflection in a way that someone who has never been to Wyoming may not be able to. I have such a passion for both my home state and for being a gay man and I think that passion is the key to powerful art.

BWW Detroit: Do you have a favorite moment in the show?

Brandy Joe Plambeck: There are two moments that I find particularly moving in The Laramie Project. The first is when Laramie resident, Harry Woods, experiences the homecoming parade from his apartment and the second is when Romaine Patterson creates an "angel brigade" to block out the hate at Matthew's funeral.

BWW Detroit: Twenty years later, why do you think The Laramie Project is still such an important piece of theatre?

Brandy Joe Plambeck: I think that this is still an important piece of theatre because it explored the story in a groundbreaking way by having the characters be real-life people speaking their real-life words. It also does a great job of examining a tragedy from all angles. I think it is most powerful due to its unbiased approach which allows all viewers to relate with some of the people involved. It examines hatred in a dramatic and realistic way that, I believe, will always be relevant.

BWW Detroit: Why should people come see The Ringwald's production of The Laramie Project?

Brandy Joe Plambeck: People should come and see The Ringwald's production of The Laramie Project because we have an incredible cast and will be telling an incredible story. Spreading love and acceptance is a huge part of our theatrical game plan and this play exemplifies these messages in a most dynamic way. Whether you remember Matthew Shepard's murder like it was yesterday, or if it is a story you have come to know about as you have grown up, this is a wonderful way to learn about and remember the events from 20 years ago.

You can connect with Brandy Joe Plambeck on Twitter at @BrandyJoePlamby, Instagram at @BrandyJoePlamby, and facebook.com/brandyjoeplambeck.

You can connect with The Ringwald on Twitter at @TheRingwald and facebook.com/TheRingwald.

The Laramie Project opens Friday, September 14th for one weekend only at The Ringwald in Ferndale. For more information and tickets, visit www.TheRingwald.com.

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