“The Laramie Project” aims to inspire change

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Photo by Alex Rodriguez/ El Paisano

Rio Hondo actors in The Laramie Project.

Jake Laurell , Tutor

The Laramie Project, a play about Matthew Shepard, a gay student attending Wyoming University who tragically lost his life in a gruesome murder in 1998 is coming to the Wray Theater. In a small town where the motto is “live and let live,” Shepard was beaten, tortured, and left to die on a fence near Laramie, Wyoming, by Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. Shepherd was killed because of his sexual orientation, and his assailants were charged with a hate crime in addition to murder.

The play was written by Moises Kaufman. Kaufman sets the play in the aftermath of what happened to Shepard. He, among others who were members of the Tectonic Theater Project, conducted interviews with 200 towns people to have the play be written in a documentary style fashion.

Theatre professor, Kirk Vichengrad is directing the play at Rio Hondo. Vichengrad is from from the east coast, and has been teaching theater at Rio Hondo for 13 years. He is using 20 actors, some of which play multiple roles, to challenge the performers and make the play feel more alive and real. When asked about how it feels to be working on the Laramie Project, Vichengrad stated that it was an honor for him to work on this material.

“This play is a lesson to keep in mind the bigger picture. With [the mass shooting in] Orlando that happened not that long ago, and current times being as they are, I am hoping that this play can be a learning experience for anyone who sees it.” Vichengrad stated that he hopes people in the audience have a moment of self-reflection, even if it is just one person.

“Being fully supportive of the LGBTQIA community, reading on what happened and the material behind it gave me goosebumps.” Kristen Suarez said, a 21 year old theater major student playing Romaine Patterson, Matthew’s best friend. Saurez spoke about how moved she was about Patterson wanting to turn all this hate into love and understanding for the future. She expressed that she really wants to nail her performance, especially during turbulent times like today. She wants to inspire people to do better, like the character Suarez plays.

Caleb James Miller, President of the Artist Creating Theater Club, and currently playing six roles, spoke about his feelings and thoughts about the play. Miller stated how the director’s enthusiasm made him compelled to take on these roles. Miller expressed how working with someone that is extremely passionate about the project is a one of a kind symbiotic relationship. Miller is hoping that he can participate in being catalyst to open up a dialogue on homosexuality to anyone.

“There are still so many things that are rotten, still bad, and that needs to change.” Miller also expressed that he himself is bisexual, which is why he feels personally invested in the project. “Laramie gives a reality to how people like me are persecuted in some areas, and I am hoping to provide people better understanding about people like me.”

The play is going to be performed at Rio Hondo on November 3 at 8pm and November 6 at 1pm in the Wray Theatre.