BWW Review: THE LARAMIE PROJECT at CSUCI Performing Arts Department
"We are trying to do what we think Matt would want us to do with this opportunity of having a voice. He's with me every day when I do this".
The current production presented by the performing arts department at California State University at Channel Islands is the retelling of the tragic hate crime involving an Out student at a Wyoming university, two bigoted young townspeople, and the small town of Laramie that was affected by the incident and has forever been changed.
Where the Stonewall Riots of the late 60's propelled the infancy of lgbtq+ rights and put the issues and demands of that community on the map, the tragedy of Matthew Shepard lifted the Movement to the next plane of the early 90's. Both are fixtures and have cemented their places in world history.
Director/Professor Laura Covault has created an environment of safety and truth in retelling this story and it shows in the fluidity of the production as well as in the commitment the student-actors present within their time on stage.
Where the production usually consists of an ensemble of 8 actors who portray all 20+ characters, Covault has made the wise decision to cast almost the same amount of actors as their are characters as to have each person focus on one character. With this casting decision, characters seem to be fuller and more flushed out. Yes, there are a few actors who are double cast and portray multiple characters, but they are just as detailed in their acting choices as those that only have one.
It is a true ensemble and everyone does a remarkable job, however on opening night some actors seemed surprised by how present the emotion was and this reviewer found it heartwarming to see so many personal voices behind the lines of the script itself. Kudos to standouts DJ Elhadidy, Griffin Giboney, Andreyra Martinez, and Sierra Morgan, to name a few.
For those of us who were either involved somehow at that time (I was one of the 5000 who attended the vigil in Los Angeles) or had the opportunity to perform in a production of "The Laramie Project", you know once you have...your life is changed.
Matthew Shepard's story is a massive tragedy but out of death and sadness came good, love, and support. And we, as a community, are better for it.
First, thank you to all involved with this production of "The Laramie Project", may you continue to spread the words of tolerance, acceptance, inclusion, and pride within your lives and in your art...and as the character of Harry Woods states, "And second, thank you Matthew".
"The Laramie Project" runs through November 23 on the campus of California State University at Channel Islands at the Malibu Hall Theatre, Camarillo, CA. For tickets: https://laramieprojectci.bpt.me/