BWW Blog: Alyssa Sileo - For Matthew: THE LARAMIE PROJECT at GCIT
The power of theatre is not only to entertain, but to heal, honor, and harbor the most pressing themes.
Last December, my friends and I performed in The Laramie Project by Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Company. (You can tell by the scheduling of this blog that I'm still recovering from production week.) This play consists of interviews of people of Laramie, Wyoming. These were conducted by the Company after the murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student.
Almost 20 years removed from this hate crime, we must ask ourselves--have we made a safe space for our LGBTQ+ siblings?
This piece of theatre is so close to my class and my department. There were several times during the rehearsal and production process where we were blown away by the play's power and relevance. More than once we encountered a moment where something accidentally connected to Matthew or the story. We like to think that that's his shout-out to us, his blessing over our play.
Here's three of those special moments.
1) In Act III of the play, four people dressed as angels come onstage to protect the funeral-goers from the homophobic protesters. This is a demonstration of an idea Matthew's friend Romaine Patterson had called Angel Action. The project even exists today, attending funerals and protests and standing as a symbol of compassion and love.
On closing night, the angels saw a ladybug on one of our angel costumes. We felt for sure that it was Matthew saying hi.
Even better: cast member Mikey (Jedidiah Schultz/Moises Kaufman/Phillip Dubois) saw a ladybug every day during the show.
2) Cast Member Kayla (Catherine Connolly/Aaron McKinney) designed our forest green, long-sleeve show shirts. The day after I got my shirt, I found a picture of Matthew wearing a forest green, long-sleeve shirt.
3) Cast Member Alexa, who played Romaine Patterson, received a gift from a family member after one of the shows--a bracelet with angel wings on it. The family member was not aware the connection between Romaine and Angels when she bought the bracelet.
This play is a masterwork, a feat of structure and dramatic convention. Being in this show at least once in your life is an unbelievable honor. It's a piece of theatre that you carry with you forever. One of the many factors that curbed the Post-Show Sadness is the enduring impact on our classmates who came to see the show. We still hear wonderful stories about audience members who experienced the kind of catharsis that we, as theatre artists, aim to deliver. The incredible, compelling Laramie story is something we endeavored to, in the words of Father Roger, a Laramie Catholic Priest, "say it right, say it correct [because we] have a responsibility to do that."
What also keeps Laramie in GCIT is The Laramie Project Project, which is our thespian mission to use theatre advocacy to spread tolerance. In the wake of the hate crime at Pulse Night Club that took 49 Orlando and LGBTQ+ lives, we are seeking 49 groups to conduct performances or stage readings of The Laramie Project. Each group will do the play in honor of a Pulse victim.
Visit my blog "Attention Theatre Teachers and Students!" from 1/13 to see more information about The Laramie Project Project.
Theatre is the ultimate art form because we can immortalize the stories that teach us the most valuable lessons. In theatre, all lives on.
Cover Photo: Lauren Mun
For Matthew: The Laramie Project at GCIT
The Candle Vigil Scene. Photo credit: Lauren Mun
The Class of 2018
I loved being my friend Makenzie's mom. She played Reggie Fluty and I played Marge Murray. Photo credit: Lauren Mun