“The Laramie Project” is set in Laramie, Wyoming in 1998, where Matthew Shepard, a gay student from the University of Wyoming was kidnapped, beaten, tied to a fence and left to die. This play shows the audience the lives of the town’s people in Laramie before, during and after the death of Matthew Shepard, as well as their reactions and emotions towards this incident. I enjoyed all of the cast’s performances because each and every one of them portrayed their multiple characters very well. The performance that I enjoyed the most was Reuben Tuck’s, because he had to play so many different characters one after the other, and he made it seem effortless to the audience. He played two completely different characters, Reverend Fred Phelps and Father Roger Schmidt.
Reverend Fred Phelps is extremely anti-gay and goes to Matthew Shepard’s funeral carrying signs that say “God Hates Fags” to protest against the treatment that Shepard is receiving because he is gay. Father Roger Schmidt is a Catholic priest in Laramie and is not against gays, he does not believe that they are good or bad in any way. At first, when Reuben Tuck was shifting between the two holy figures I got confused because the costumes were exactly the same, he stuck a square piece of paper on his black shirt under his neck. Then he started to speak and the emotions and actions that he put into the two characters were equally strong but different in a way that allows the audience to understand that he is portraying a different character.
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I felt irritated and emotional during the scene where Amanda Gronich phoned the unnamed Baptist Minister to ask him about how he felt towards the Matthew Shepard incident. He said, “I hope Matthew Shepard as he was tied to that fence that he had time to reflect on a moment when somebody had spoken the word of the lord to him and that before he slipped into a coma he had a chance to reflect on his lifestyle”. In another scene before this conversation on the phone, the Baptist minister had a long monologue about how the Bible states that homosexuality is wrong and that good believer of god should not be gay and if they are they are going to go to Hell. After I watched these two scenes I couldn’t help but notice that one of the reasons for Matthew Shepard’s death is people like the Baptist Minister who preach that being gay is wrong, to the younger generation.
When I first read the synopsis of the play I didn’t really know what to expect. I actually thought that we would get to see Matthew Shepard robbed, beaten and tied to a fence, so I was excited to see how the cast would be able to do a portray such a strong physical scene on a small stage. I was also wondering how all of the characters would be represented on stage, will actors continuously enter and exit the house? Will it be distracting for the audience, since we are sitting on all three sides of the stage? What will they do with the setting? Then when I got to the show everything was so simple- there were two large black platforms like boxes on the stage and a couple of chairs. The platforms and chairs were basically the only things used as the physical setting. The actors wore simple black costumes.
As the production progressed I noticed that the actors changed their costumes on stage in front of the audience. At first, I found it strange because I’ve never seen actors change on stage before, and then I began to find it distracting because I began focusing not on the actor who was acting, but on the other actors who were changing their costumes and characters. However, the lighting helped me focus on the actor who was speaking. The actors usually changed their costumes where there was no spotlight, so the audience wouldn’t be distracted. All of the costumes and props the actors used were on one table. Everything on that table looked extraordinarily unorganized, but the actors didn’t seem to have any problems with finding what they needed. I thought the costumes were very simple but they still gave the audience an insight into what the character the actor was portraying is like.
The set did not only included two large black platforms for elevation, but a virtual screen which showed the setting, the simplicity allowed the scenery to change easily and allowed the audience to know whether the actors were portraying someone inside a house, in front of a hospital or at the fence where Matthew Shepard was tied to. Before I attended this show I didn’t really know what lighting was really used for, I knew that I could enhance the performance but I generally thought it was unnecessary. However, the lighting allowed me to focus on the actor who was speaking and take in everything that they were saying rather than looking at the other actors.
Attending a play and watching a movie both have their pros and cons. I think that attending a play makes the plot of the story seem more realistic because the actors are right in front of you, so you do not have to think for a second that this was tweaked by a computer. The connection between actors and audience is more powerful when in a theatre because the audience’s reactions towards a scene in a play can cause the actors to feel more in charge and possibly improve what they are doing. When you are watching a movie, you do not have any impact on what the actors are doing. But you can see the actors more clearly and their tiny movements can mean a lot of things, while in a play the audience will not be able to see small movement, so everything must be exaggerated.
The audience enjoyed the play. During intermission when we were told to leave the house the audience members were all talking about the play. During the play, there was this woman pointing out certain performances to her friend and telling her the names of a few of the characters which she thought were worth pointing out. After the play, when we could ask the cast and director questions there was a man who was so awed by the show that he was disappointed that it was not performed on a much larger stage and he kept bringing it up over and over. I would give “The Laramie Project” five stars because the actor’s performances as different characters were all incredibly memorable and distinct; the space provided was also used very well.