Camas Theatre students are in the middle of daily rehearsals for “The Laramie Project,” which director Sean Kelly says is the “most in-depth play we’ve ever produced here.”
The play, written by Moises Kaufman, and members of the Tectonic Theatre Project, is about the reaction to the 1998 murder of University of Wyoming gay student, Matthew Shepard, in Laramie, Wyoming. The three-act play is based on hundreds of interviews conducted by the theatre company with inhabitants of the town, interviewer journal entries, and published news reports.
The cast of 19, each of whom takes on multiple characters, spends their afternoons rehearsing their lines, and preparing themselves for a play that is causing most of them to look deep into human nature and behavior. We spent 90 minutes with the actors as they listened closely to instruction, and then had their own in-depth discussion about what causes people to behave badly.
“The play is about how people can rationalize, in general,” says Kelly. “The students are taking on some really deep material. It’s stretching them.”
Armita Aziza, who plays Zubaida Ula, among other characters, says the play addressed how the incident affected the town.
“Our characters address prejudice, hatred, and community,” she says.
Omar Shafiuzzaman is playing four characters: Dennis Shepard (Matthew’s father), police detective, Rob Debree, a news reporter, and playwright, Moises Kaufman.
“We’re all on stage for the whole show,” says Shafiuzzaman. “It’s very challenging to switch between these characters, and we’re learning a lot.”
Skylar Derthick plays Jeddidiah Schultz, Dr. Castaway (who operates on Matthew), and Reverend Fred Phelps, of the Westboro Baptist Church, who lead a protest at Shepard’s funeral.
“It’s tough to play all these roles,” says Derthick, who appreciates the work going into this production.
Kelly encourages the local community to turn out for their play, and welcomes a broader discussion about prejudices and attitudes. Following the play, there will be an open question-and-answer period. And, it should be known the play does contain profanity, as it reflects on real-life accounts and interviews.
“It’s easy to hate an idea,” says Kelly. “But, it’s a lot harder to hate a person once you get to know them.”
The Laramie Project Play Dates
- November 3 @ 7 pm
- November 4 @ 2 pm (matinee) and 7 pm
- November 10 @ 7 pm
- November 11 @ 2 pm (matinee) and 7 pm
Location: Camas High School Theatre
To learn more, visit www.chs.camas.wednet.edu