The play describes an event that sticks in the craw of
“The Laramie Project” swallows all around it – the creators, the cast and designers, the audience. Everyone comes away feeling something, whether that’s revulsion, anger, fascination, illumination, curiosity or many points between.
Action traces theater leader Moises Kaufman and the Members of Tectonic Theater Project as they visit
Jane Purse-Wiedenhoeft of the faculty thoroughly directs the UW-Oshkosh Theatre production. Members of the ensemble cast of 16 play 66 roles, with some characters appearing more than once. A change of a piece of clothing (costume design by Kathleen Donnelly), a shift of language and body English – presto, there’s another character (with all the switching meaning audience members must pay close attention).
Jon Albright, Amy Baumgardner, Alana Berthiaume, Mark Drees, Nayla Ferreira, Sarah Gorski, Cameron Hitchcock, Joseph King, Brian Markovich, Giovanna Martin, Mallory Radney, Jacob Schaubs, Luke Scorcio, Brittnae Sievert, Bradley Skonecki and Kellie Wambold.
Topics abound – law, religion, human nature, medicine, social interaction, attitudes, ways of life, love, hate, homosexuality, family, procedures, policies, personality, Wyoming, nightlife, law enforcement, HIV positive, the human body in crisis, language, uses of language, accents, bartending, friendship, Laramie, academia, the media, ethnics, journalism, theater, theatricality. And more.
A priest in the play remarks, “You know what is true. Do your best to get it correct.” It’s a thought one hopes that anybody associated with anything involving “The Laramie Project” will attempt.
Talkback sessions follow each UW-Oshkosh Theatre performance. Wednesday night’s included students in the cast voluntarily standing up to share thoughts about their characters. Mark Drees said he tried to place himself in the feelings of Russell Henderson, who tied Matthew Shepard to the remote fence, as
Some of the play includes presentations from real life – a judge reading the arraignment document, taped recordings of witnesses, Aaron McKinney’s confession, people of Laramie and Dennis Shepard’s eloquent statement to the court in which he says he wishes to see Aaron McKinney die but yet asks in the name of his son, Matthew Shepard, that he be spared.
UW-Oshkosh Theatre’s production uses projected images (scenic design by Roy Hoglund) of scenes in and around
Other productions I’ve seen employ acting only, with everything taking place in the mind’s eye. While the play exists on paper in black and white, each production is different by the nature of theater. Different spaces, different performers and different ideas make each production one of a kind. Whatever the approach, “The Laramie Project” is dynamic. It’s hard viewing but worth seeing at least once.
THE VENUE: The 498-seat Fredric March Theatre includes a tradition proscenium (flat front stage) that’s 40 feet wide by 16 feet high. Built in 1971, the theater is located in the heart of the UW-Oshkosh campus. The exterior features a 1970s era UW campus architectural style that embraces cement, in this case the cement reminiscent of geometric trees supporting a flat roof on the glass-enclosed entry and lobby. The interior features honeycombed red-brick walls and a slightly arcing seating area with no center aisle, with a general impression of closeness to the stage.
THE PERSON: Fredric March was a famous actor who was born in 1897 in
REST OF THE SEASON: Theme: “Voices of Perseverance”: “Bus Stop” by Willliam Inge, Feb. 12-16; “An Evening of One-Acts” by students, March 6-8 in Experimental Theatre; “Antigone” by Sophocles, April 23-27.
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