Bergen County Players to Present THE LARAMIE PROJECT, 5/19 & 20
On the heels of the U.S. Justice Department issuing its first indictment under the hate crimes protection law afforded by the Matthew Shepard Act, the Bergen County Players (BCP) is proud to present a limited engagement of THE LARAMIE PROJECT, written by Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project. Hailed by Time Magazine as one of the “Top Ten Plays of the Year 2000,” The Laramie Project is a thought provoking, critically acclaimed and emotionally riveting drama about an incomprehensible crime that thrusts a small town into the national spotlight. A portion of the proceeds for this limited run will benefit the Tyler Clementi Foundation in Ridgewood, New Jersey.
Under the direction of Alyson Cohn, THE LARAMIE PROJECT will be performed only twice at the Little Firehouse Theatre in Oradell on Saturday, May 19th at 2:00 pm and Sunday, May 20th at 7:00 pm. All tickets are $10 and can be purchased online at www.bcplayers.org, by calling 201-261-4200 or by visiting the box office at 298 Kinderkamack Road in Oradell during regular box office hours. Immediately following each performance of The Laramie Project there will be a special post-show Talkback session with the cast, crew and director, as well as with representatives of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) community to answer questions raised by the play. The discussion will also address local bullying and hate crimes.
On October 7, 1998, Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay college student, was kidnapped, savagely beaten and left to die while tied to a fence on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming. His bloody, bruised and battered body was not discovered until the next day, and he died several days later in an area hospital. This act of brutality and hate shocked the nation. In The Laramie Project, a chorus of voices brings to life the thoughts and feelings of the people of Laramie, Wyoming as they react to the murder, which was denounced as a hate crime motivated by homophobia. The play brought attention to the lack of hate crime laws in various states, including Wyoming.
Matthew Shepard's murder became a national symbol of intolerance. This single event was examined within the framework of a portrait of Laramie by company members of Tectonic Theatre Project and director Moisés Kaufman, who spent a year conducting hundreds of interviews with the town's affected citizens. Out of those candid interviews, company members’ own journal entries and published news reports comes this play—a riveting, deeply moving and inspiring theater event. New York Magazine said, "The Laramie Project is a terrific piece of theatre, history, and life... Nothing short of stunning.”
The Laramie Project will be directed by Alyson Cohn of Wyckoff. Cohn is both a seasoned performer and director. Her BCP directing credits include Glengarry Glen Ross, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; Angels in America: Millennium Approaches; Six Degrees of Separation; The Heidi Chronicles; Proposals; True West; Art; and Proof, which won the 2006 Perry Award for Best Production of a Play. “For me this play is no longer about Laramie or a particular victim,” says Cohn. “Hate crimes are committed everywhere at every minute of every day. Unfortunately, this story and those like it cannot be overstated, overdone or overplayed.”
A talented cast of eight actors portray more than sixty characters in The Laramie Project. The veteran cast includes Steve Bell of Teaneck, Amy Edelstein of New York City, Lena Grotticelli of Mahwah, Merielle Lupfer of Hillsdale, Chris Nelson of Westwood, Frank Osmers of Haworth, Sharon Podsada of Emerson, and Andrew Van Buskirk of Ridgewood.
The production team includes Producer Kathie Robitz (Westwood), Assistant to the Director Sara Vela (New City, NY), Stage Manager Michele Roth (New Milford), Set Design and Construction by Timothy Meola (Flanders), Lighting Design by Alan Seward (Bardonia, NY) and Timothy Meola (Flanders), Sound Design by Rob DeScherer (Woodcliff Lake), Costumes by Rosella DeVincenzo (Oradell) and Katie Lupfer (Tenafly), Properties and Sound Operation by Paul Reitnauer III (Demarest), Lighting Operation by John Kiely (Allendale), Photography by Alan Zenreich (Oradell), and Program Notes by Marci Weinstein (Teaneck).
Since its founding in 1991, Tectonic Theater Project has used theater to instigate national debate with productions including The Laramie Project. Tectonic focuses on watershed historical moments— times when the ideas, beliefs and ideologies that are the pillars of a certain culture at a certain time— surface around a specific event. "When this happens," says Tectonic’s Artistic Director Moisés Kaufman, "the event itself operates as a lightning rod that allows us to see clearly, for a brief time, what ideas that society is made of.
The Tyler Clementi Foundation was formed to promote awareness and respect for human dignity and privacy, as well as personal responsibility among our youth, in both their personal and digital lives. It supports young people at risk of suicide by promoting education and intervention for our youth, parents, teachers, and mentors. The Foundation’s goals are to raise awareness of the issues surrounding and support organizations concerned with suicide prevention, acceptance of LGBT teens, and education against internet cyber bullying.
TICKET AND SCHEDULE INFORMATION
· Both performances of The Laramie Project take place at The Little Firehouse Theatre at 298 Kinderkamack Road in Oradell, home to the Bergen County Players since 1949. Performance times are Saturday, May 19th at 2:00 pm, and Sunday, May 20th at 7:00 pm.
· All tickets for The Laramie Project are $10 and can be purchased online at www.bcplayers.org, by calling 201-261-4200 or by visiting the box office at 298 Kinderkamack Road in Oradell during regular box office hours. Visa, Master Card, and American Express are accepted.
· Those interested in Group Sales of 20 or more tickets can call (201) 262-0515.
· BCP will offer a special post-show Talkback session following each performance of The Laramie Project. Admission is included in the cost of the ticket.
· Parking is free at the Park Avenue municipal lot, across the street, one-half block north of the theater.
The Bergen County Players has grown tremendously from its roots as a small community theater when it was founded in 1932; today, nearly 300 volunteer members, working on and off stage, make possible the nine productions presented each season. Further information can be found at www.bcplayers.org.
The Bergen County Players, Inc. is a non-Equity, non-profit community theater company dedicated to presenting quality productions for the enrichment of the community.
THE LARAMIE PROJECT
December 1, 1976
Matthew Shepard is born in Casper, Wyoming.
Shepard begins his studies at the University of Wyoming, where he majors in political science.
October 7, 1998
Shortly after midnight, Shepard meets Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson at the Fireside Bar in Laramie. After posing as gay men and offering Shepard a ride home, McKinney and Henderson rob him, pistol-whip him, tie him with rope and stretch him along a fence on the outskirts of Laramie.
October 7, 1998
Eighteen hours after the beating, a biker finds Shepard tied to the fence, brutally beaten and unconscious. The biker initially mistakes Shepard for a scarecrow.
October 8, 1998
McKinney and Henderson are arrested and arraigned on charges of kidnapping, aggravated robbery and attempted first-degree murder.
October 12, 1998
Shepard dies at Poudre Valley Health Center after five days in a coma.
Members of New York City’s Tectonic Theater Project arrive in Laramie to conduct interviews for a play that examines the effects of Shepard’s killing on the town.
Henderson pleads guilty to felony murder and is sentenced to two consecutive life sentences.
November 4, 1999
At his trial, McKinney invokes the "gay panic defense"—the argument that he was driven to temporary insanity by Shepard’s alleged sexual advances. McKinney and Henderson’s girlfriends testify under oath that their boyfriends plotted beforehand to rob a gay man. McKinney is convicted of first-degree felony murder and second-degree murder. He is spared the death penalty after a speech by Dennis Shepard, Matthew’s father, and receives two consecutive life sentences.
The Laramie Project play opens at the Denver Center Theater.