Northside Students Put on “The Laramie Project”
by Kenny Larson
The fall represents an exciting time for Northside performers, and Northside students often pride themselves on their strong theatrical productions. On Nov. 17, 18, and 19, Northsiders performed “The Laramie Project,” a play detailing the story of, and nationwide reactions to, the murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming. Contrasting the typical storytelling style of previous Northside plays, the plot of “The Laramie Project” progresses through quotes from actual interviews with Laramie residents, as well as transcripts from the trial of Matthew’s convicted murderers, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson.
“The Laramie Project” was created by the Tectonic Theater Group in response to the internationally-followed murder of college student Matthew Shepard, who, as is quickly revealed in the play, was a victim of a horrific and fatal beating because of his homosexuality. The play begins almost immediately following the reports of Matthew Shepard becoming a victim of assault by unidentified assailants. From there, the audience is exposed to a wide-range of perspectives, from Laramie residents who reflect on their experiences surrounding Matthew’s murder, including those who knew Matthew personally, as well as those reflecting on how the national attention on Laramie impacted their lives.
One of the difficulties that the cast had to overcome for their performance was being able to make quick character transitions between scenes. Because “The Laramie Project” is heavily based around incorporating interviews from dozens of unique characters to advance the story, each actor had to assume the role of multiple characters and rapidly switch outfits while offstage. “For some scenes, you had to change all of your clothes really quickly,” said Molly Furlong, Adv. 906, whose most prominent role in the play depicted a local bartender. “But, for some, you just had to take off your jacket… and you had a couple of scenes to spare.” However, even in the most time-crunched apparel transitions, switching clothes was one of the hidden elements of the play that best and impressively displayed their months of practice.
On another note, several of the actors commented on the parts of creating a powerful, well-executed performance that most outside of the theatrical community rarely consider. “Something that was difficult for me was what to do with my body language.” said Mario Cook, Adv. 904, whose primary role was the infamous Aaron McKinney, convicted for the kidnapping and murder of Matthew Shepard. “When you’re on stage, you’re hyper-aware of everything you are doing. You still have to move in a natural way, which is hard to do when you’re thinking about what you’re doing.” Furlong, however, reflected on a more subtle aspect of acting that posed her great difficulty. “Memorizing lines [was the most difficult part]. Not even a question.” While Furlong’s comments applied to line memorization in general, she also specified that the dialogue in “The Laramie Project” was particularly difficult to perform. “You’re saying someone else’s words so they’re really conversational,” said Furlong, “and sometimes they don’t really make a lot of sense.” Although both performers admitted that preparing for the play had its difficulties, Cook and Furlong similarly expressed their enjoyment in being part of an interesting show, and both stated that they were looking forward to starting practices for the Spring musical in the upcoming weeks. Reflecting on his experiences, Cook said, “When you’re first reading through the script, and, in practice when you’re doing only one scene at a time, you think of them all as stand alone… But when you do the play, it all comes together, which was really cool.”
Fortunately for Cook and Furlong, both were joined by a supportive cast and crew who helped to create an emotionally powerful and moving show, including: Annabel Faircloth, Adv. 102, Ari Kelo, Adv. 808, Betty Slatkoff, Adv. 006, Connor Gartner, Adv. 810, Elizabeth Johns, Adv. 000, Halima Lat, Adv. 102, Karen Perez, Adv. 903, Molly McQuillan, Adv. 901, Samantha Ringor Adv. 001, Tessa Martinez Adv. 003, Tyler O’Brien, Adv. 909, Vivian Zagotta, Adv. 000, Hillary Nguyen Adv. 808, Stephanie Rodriguez, Adv. 807, Lexy Chilson, Adv. 908. In addition, the students were supported by Artistic Director Ms. Kyra Doherty and Technical Director Mr. Mike Lill.
Although “The Laramie Project” contrasts in a stylistic sense from previous Northside theatrical productions, the months of practice and rehearsal were clearly evident in the actors’ performances. Students interested in watching a Northside theatre production should look forward to the musical in the Spring of 2018.