Great theater is made up of small but important moments.
Staples Players are well known for great theater.
After last week, they now know even more about those “moments.”
As the high school troupe — which is decidedly not your average bunch of teenage kids — prepares to stage “Laramie Project: 10 Years Later,” they spent 4 hours with someone intimately involved with that play, and the equally powerful “Laramie Project” that preceded it (which Players produced last year).
Andy Paris came to Staples on Thursday. He described how his Tectonic Theater Project group traveled to Laramie, Wyoming in the aftermath of gay student Matthew Shepard’s murder; how they structured a drama about the effect of that crime on a small college town, then how they returned a decade later, believing they’d fashion a 15-minute epilogue to their play.
Instead, Paris — an original cast member, who also performed in the HBO “Laramie Project” film — and his colleagues realized they had the makings of an entirely new work.
Paris told the Players actors and stage crew about all that. But he did much more.
He focused on “moment work”: the single unit that gives power and meaning to a play. In “Laramie Project,” such moments include scenes at the fence where Shepard was left to die, and the vigil that followed a few days later.
Then — using costumes, lights and other tools of the trade — Paris helped the Staples students devise their own “moments.”
One actor did it by walking in a spiral, while another created a tempo. Clever use of light and a gas mask formed another moment.
“We could have done it for 8 hours,” Players director David Roth says. “The kids were entranced.”
The workshop helped actors, and lighting director Francis Fiore, “understand the structure of ‘Laramie’ a lot more,” Roth noted. “It also brought them together as an ensemble, to better understand the creative theatrical process. I think it really opened their minds.”
“The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later” is powerful theater. The political, sociological and theatrical elements of Matthew Shepard’s murder are strong stuff.
But when Staples Players stage the show 2 weeks from now, they’ll do so with added insight, and extra depth.
It will be quite a moment.
(“The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later” will be performed in Staples’ Black Box Theatre on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 19, 20 and 21 [7:30 p.m.], and Sunday, May 22 [3 p.m.]. For more information, click here. For tickets, click here.)