Approximately four months after their production of Beauty and the Beast, the ENC Theater Program is putting on another production, this one much more grounded in reality.
The Laramie Project tells the story of the hate crime committed against Matthew Shepard, a gay college student at the University of Wyoming. On October 6, 1998, Shepard was tied to a fence post, beaten and mugged. He died five days later from the wounds he sustained.
The Laramie Project is a documentary theater piece. After the incident, members of the Tectonic Theater Company traveled to Laramie, Wyoming and interviewed members of the town. The finished play is a patchwork of these interviews, with actors and actresses playing both the townsfolk of Laramie and the original members of Tectonic Theatre Company.
“The actors have to play around seven different parts each,” said Tara Brooke Watkins, ENC’s theater artistic director. “That’s really hard. It’s hard for a seasoned actor, let alone a student actor.”
The nature of documentary theater makes the roles difficult to perform as well. “This is not an exaggerated acting style,” Watkins points out. “They have to come across as real people.”
The actors and actresses involved work hard to embody these people. Marci Zaccardi, an English and theater for social justice major, plays four different people, one of which is the notorious Reverend Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church.
“It’s very hard to play somebody who makes it their job in life to talk about how God hates gay people,” Zaccardi said. “I don’t think God hates gay people at all, I think He loves everyone.”
God’s love for everybody is the concept at the center of ENC’s production of this play. God loves all people regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation. The production of this play isn’t meant to push any particular viewpoint, but instead to foster a discussion about the issue with honesty, integrity, and respect for all involved. The play is likely to challenge viewers, but it is also likely to be an entertaining, progressive, and informative experience for all.
The Laramie Project is being performed February 21, 22, and 23 at 7:30 p.m. in the Cove Fine Arts Center. Tickets can be purchased online at brownpapertickets.com or from the box office, located in Cove.