Tag Archives: “The Laramie Project”

Staples Players Share A Theatrical Moment

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.

"Laramie Project" actor Andy Paris (blue plaid shirt, coffee cup) works with Staples Players. (Photo/Kerry Long)

“Laramie Project” actor Andy Paris (blue plaid shirt, coffee cup) works with Staples Players. (Photo/Kerry Long)

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.

Staples Players create a "moment," with light. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Staples Players create a “moment,” with light. (Photo/Kerry Long)

“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.)

 

Staples Players Bring “Laramie Project” To Life

When Staples Players director David Roth announced the spring Black Box Theater production — “The Laramie Project” — 80% of the actors had no idea who Matthew Shepard was.

But why would they? The oldest were 2 years old when the gay University of Wyoming student was beaten, tied to a fence and left to die in the Laramie night.

Roth and co-director Kerry Long are adept at presenting theater that educates audiences. This time, they’re educating their cast too.

“I don’t think kids in this community have any idea how tough it still is to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans in other parts of the country,” Roth says. “A lot of teenagers here don’t realize how we’ve gotten to this place of acceptance.”

Part of the reason Staples is a high school where students feel comfortable being who they are — whoever they are — is because of John Dodig. The principal has worked hard to create an environment of acceptance and inclusion. He retires this spring after 11 years at Staples — and 47 in education — so Roth and Long are proud to dedicate this year’s “Laramie Project” to him.

Sophia Sherman, Keanan Pucci and Nick Ribolla, ensemble members of “The Laramie Project.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

It’s the 2nd time Roth and Long are directing this show with Players. The 1st production was 8 years ago.

This set design is completely different. So is the use of technology, showing the use of TV cameras as world media descended on Wyoming.

Different too is that “The Laramie Project” now has a companion piece. In 2008 — 10 years after Matthew Shepard’s murder — the Tectonic Theater Project returned to the town. They interviewed many of the same people who contributed to the first play, as well as others — like Matthew’s mother Judy, and his 2 killers. All showed what had — and had not — changed in the intervening decade.

The result was another play: “The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later.” It recently become available for licensing. Players will be one of the first companies anywhere to produce that show next year.

Each cast member plays multiple roles in

Each cast member plays multiple roles in “The Laramie Project.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

Roth and Long are excited about the opportunity to do their 1st-ever cycle. Some of this year’s cast will audition for the same roles a year from now. It’s a challenging way for them to look at their character’s growth — and their own.

The directors savor the chance to work with an ensemble. The cast of 18 covers over 60 roles. Each actor must understand multiple, nuanced characters. The hate crime evoked complex reactions among many Laramie residents.

It’s all part of the educational process that began when this generation of Staples students first heard the name “Matthew Shepard.”

(“The Laramie Project” will be presented in Staples’ Black Box Theater on May 28, 29, 30 and 31. Click here for times, and ticket information [available starting Saturday morning].)

Hello, Laramie!

High school theater — at least in Fairfield County — is a special art form. It’s entertaining, provocative, and exceptionally high quality.

This weekend, local audiences can enjoy 2 very different shows. Both are well worth going far out of your way to see.

Staples Players presents “Hello, Dolly!” Directors David Roth and Kerry Long have pulled out all the stops. The classic farce — featuring memorable music and great choreography — promises to continue Players’ long tradition of Broadway-worthy productions.

Meanwhile, Weston High School’s Company presents “The Laramie Project.” The fascinating play draws on hundreds of interviews, conducted in Wyoming in the aftermath of the kidnapping and murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard.

Cast in some of their many ensemble "Laramie" roles are (from left) Jack Seigenthaler, Kevin MacWilliams, Sam Rosenthal and Preston Troxell. (Photo/Peter Friedman)

Cast in some of their many ensemble “Laramie” roles are (from left) Jack Seigenthaler, Kevin MacWilliams, Sam Rosenthal and Preston Troxell. (Photo/Peter Friedman)

Twenty-six students play the parts of 68 Laramie residents, in this complex, well-crafted and many-faceted exploration of life and death in a Western town.

Director Kevin Slater is familiar to many Westporters, for his work with drama troupes in schools here. Cast member Jack Seigenthaler is also well known, for his portrayal of Conrad in Staples Players’ 2013 summer production of “Bye Bye Birdie.”

“The Laramie Project” is presented this Friday and Saturday, November 14 and 15. The Sunday, November 16 matinee will be followed by an on-stage talk-back with Andy Paris. A member of the original cast, he’s Skyped with cast members — providing powerful insights into what is already a stunning show.

(“Hello, Dolly!” is performed on Friday and Saturday, November 14, 15, 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m., with 3 p.m. matinees on Sunday, November 16 and Saturday, November 22. For tickets — including the pre-show gala on opening night — click www.StaplesPlayers.com.

“The Laramie Project” is performed on Friday and Saturday, November 14 and 15 at 8 p.m., and Sunday, November 16 at 3 p.m.  For tickets, click whscompany.com.)