The Spring-Ford Youth Community Theater opened THE LARAMIE PROJECT on May 3, a compilation of interviews by the Tectonic Theater Project and Moises Kaufman. THE LARAMIE PROJECT is the result of interviewing hundreds of people in Laramie, Wyoming, about the killing of University of Wyoming student Matthew Sheppard in 1998. Sheppard, a young gay man, was beaten to death, and his murder was labeled a hate crime. The ensuing publicity brought attention to the lack of hate crime laws throughout the country, including Wyoming. In addition to the interviews, THE LARAMIE PROJECT includes snippets from the news reports, court transcripts and personal observations from the group interviewing the inhabitants.
THE LARAMIE PROJECT is a difficult piece to do in any venue…the actors play multiple characters (over 60 in total) and have to tell a very tragic story. The subject matter is controversial and raw, and is difficult material for any theater ensemble. To their credit, the actors in SFYCT have invested heavily in the project and give a very passionate performance.
Director and President of SFYCT Bonnie Fetterolf made some interesting choices in this production, choosing to do the 3-act piece without an intermission as well as having her cast stay on stage throughout the production, seated in chairs flanking the periphery of the stage. The audience sees each cast member adding pieces to their base costumes to show the different characters each must portray. The length of the production makes for a difficult sitting…perhaps even one intermission would give the audience a chance to catch their breath. And while it may be traditional to have the cast remain on stage (or not) having them leave occasionally would help them and the audience to relax a bit.
The 12-member cast works very well together, anticipating entrances well to avoid any dead space. Each of the actors tries to give a different slant to each of their characters, beyond the use of the costume accessories. There are some moments of intense emotion from some of the characters, and very little of it seemed forced or unreal…nice job, cast.
Some thoughts for the young actors…with material this heavy, it’s important to find the humor in the script for the sake of the audience. It’s exhausting to sit through roughly two hours of drama without a break, even the break of a bit of laughter can provide. And, be cautious of your appearance on stage…portraying a redneck while having body jewelry catching light from the stage lighting loses some of the impact of what you’re trying to convey. You are trying to paint a picture, and everything you say and do will make a difference in your performance.
I enjoyed this performance. Even with some of the bumps in the road, the enthusiasm and dedication of this young cast made for an entertaining and thought-provoking evening.
THE LARAMIE PROJECT
Written by Moises Kaufman and the members of the Tectonic Theater Project
Directed by Bonnie Fetterolf
May 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 12, 2012; 7:30 PM
Spring-Ford Youth Community Theater
Spring-Ford 8th Grade Center
Washington Street, Royersford PA 19468