MOUNT VERNON — “The Laramie Project” is a play written by Moisés Kaufman about the reaction to the 1998 murder of University of Wyoming gay student Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyo.
A group of 13 Mount Vernon High School students will be tackling this controversial play at The Place@TheWoodward. The students have been associated with Mount Vernon Players for several years and this is their first attempt at an adult-themed play. This is an independent production and is not connected with Mount Vernon High School or the Mount Vernon Board of Education.
The play is based on more than 400 interviews with about 100 Laramie residents, as well as journal entries from the members of Tectonic Theater Project and Kaufman, as they reflect on their own reactions to the crime and to the interviews they carried out. Structured as a documentary, it attempts to re-enact the events that occurred on that fateful night.
The challenge for the group is not just the nature of the material, but that each cast member plays multiple characters each with a different personality.
There were still a few bugs and glitches during the final dress rehearsal Thursday afternoon but on the whole it went smoothly and the cast was confident with its material. The material is emotional and intense, and the performances were emotional and intense. Everyone seems to have worked very hard and the performances belie the youth of the actors.
After an opening comment by the narrator, one of the town’s longtime residents provides a bit of personal history about living in Laramie. Through this narration, the audience also gains some insights into the history of the town. Other people join in: Some are newcomers; others have lived in Laramie for a long time. All of them provide background information on what it is like, in general, to be involved in the culture of the town. This sets up the atmosphere of the play.
The play moves through the material gleaned from interviews of the people who knew Shepard and what happened the night of his murder, through the discovery of his body beaten and tied to a fence post to his death and the trial.
Cast members include Conor Tazwell, Stephanie Fonglevser, Walker Griggs, Allison Glass, Doug Reitsma, Eleanor Griggs, Alexa McDonald, Andrew Clarkson, Will Teater, Steven Meeker Jr., Nora Rice, Janelle Bouchard and James Silvy.
There is some strong language and it is an adult theme.
Performances are today through Sunday and Jan. 28-30. Friday and Saturday performances are at 7:30 p.m., Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m. There is a charge for admission with students and seniors half price.