The Laramie Project - UMD Stage 2

| 31 Comments

31 Comments

Speechless is the only way to describe The Laramie Project. With such passion and honesty, this performance was phenomenal. The simple set, the outstanding cast, and a heart-filled director made the entire audience fall back in time to when this event took place and feel the emotions this town felt.
This story was about a young man named Matthew Shepard who was brutally murdered because of his sexual orientation, but that is not what we saw. The play was a documentary of how the people of the town reacted. This simple set made everyone focus on what this story was really about, which was the message of hope. Hope for a change of kindness and equality amongst all. What a strong message for young college students to be performing, but they clearly had the heart to do it.
This cast was talented. Every actor/actress played multiple people from the town of Laramie and there job was to portray these people as honestly as possible, which is exactly what they did. They made this show feel so real, almost like it was actually happening and we as an audience got to witness this in real life. That is how amazing this cast was at pulling in the audience and how great they were at selling the story as if they were the people of the town. They all had many different outfits and voices so the audience would be able to know that they are different people but if you ever did get confused there was a narrator helping steer the path. This group of students had their whole soul into this show and it was not hard to see.
This show would not have been what it was without the help of the director, Mackenzie McCullum, it takes a strong woman to put such a controversial show on a stage, and she did it successfully! There could be a lot of negative feedback from this type of show, but this was not how people felt during this performance. People were crying because they were so invested in this story and there is no doubt that people left this performance with a new outlook.
This show was not just about promoting homosexuality or saying heterosexual life only is wrong. This show had a greater meaning of hope. A hope for Matthew Shepards recovery of course but also hope for change and hope for understanding. The hope that one day people are seen as one no matter what race or sexual orientation you are we are all people. We are all guilty of evil but it takes hope to learn and to forgive and to change. And what a powerful message that is, especially for a college level group.
This performance is something that will stick in the minds of that entire audience for a very long time, no matter what each individual’s opinions and thoughts were, how could one forget such a message and such a fabulous performance. Everyone needs to see this show, it’s so amazing and powerful, every person could learn something from this show. This is a must see! One day I hope this show, these actors, and this director could be on a big stage telling this story.

The Laramie Project draws many emotions out of the audience along with the most prevalent feeling of hope. A very simple set, interesting usage of lighting, and an awesome cast, this performance deserved the standing ovation it received. The audience felt as if they were in the town of Laramie at the time of the incident.

Matthew Shepard, a young college student was murdered because of his sexual orientation but as the audience, we saw the reaction of the college and the town. Having the stage be the floor and only a few raised platforms, the simple set was ideal for the performance. One felt as if the actual event were taking place right in front of them. With the lighting shining primarily on the actor or actress speaking, focusing on the message being delivered was easy, that message being a message of hope.

Each and every actor/actress did a phenomenal job, playing multiple roles this could not have been easy. Acting as honestly as they could regardless of the role they had to play, the audience felt as if the actual event was happening right in front of them. As stated, it was a simple set which meant simple costumes, however with the changing of voices and appropriate dress the audience was able to distinguish each character from one another. Doing such an excellent job and feeling so real, there were many tears to be seen. Theses actors/actresses deserve many pats on the back.

Director Mackenzie McCullum, also did a phenomenal job. The cast could not have done such a wonderful job without the help of a brave director to pick and direct such a controversial topic. This performance could cause a lot of negative feedback by someone who just heard about the play, however after seeing the performance that should not be the case by the audience who has seen it. Tears were seen more than once during the performance but rather several times. Every person that walked out at the ending had a whole new outlook about sexual orientation.

Accepting homosexuality was not the message being delivered but rather the message of hope was. Learning to accept people for who they are and not by the stereotype we may give them was also very important. We as humans all bleed the same blood and our tears taste the same regardless of our ethnicity or sexual orientation. The meaning of hope was portrayed very well during this performance.

Every attendee may have walked out with a different opinion of the show but all had a better understanding of hope. With such a powerful message, this show deserves two thumbs up and an opportunity to perform longer and hopefully on a larger stage. One can only hope that this takes place just like the show wanted each and every person to understand. On a personal note, well done to each and every person involved in this performance.

To say that Stage 2's production of The Laramie Project "was good" is a gross understatement. Nearly every aspect of the show, even the very few slip ups, came across as pure emotion. And the audience felt that emotion and power. Excellently performed, technically sound and, because of these factors, extremely poignant.

From the audience perspective, the stage is fairly bare, save for the raised platforms, a few chairs and the fence lining the top platform. The lack of a complicated set probably made the lives of the technical staff fairly easy. The set pieces were moved mainly by actors. One would be remiss not to mention that the actors in the production portrayed almost sixty characters. This means plenty of quick costume changes. That surely made the techie's jobs difficult, yet there were few times that the performance suffered due to a missed change. Every transition quickly came and went creating a beautiful flow between scenes.

For an actor to portray someone who lived is a difficult endeavor for even the most experienced individual. These young people took on the almost herculean task of mastering at least eight characters, each of which had their own unique mannerisms, dialect and personalities. This certainly couldn't have been simple, yet they played each character superbly. Each role made a connection with the audience and made them either love or hate them. The latter being a very difficult burden to depict a "villain."

Mackenzie McCullum's direction of the play is wonderful. The idea of the minimal set is fantastic. This makes the audience focus on the beauty of the script and the power of the actors that she wisely chose for the parts. In addition, her choice of this play as a whole is a very brave thing to do. Especially in light of recent events here at UMD. However, It was brilliantly done and couldn't have been more meaningful.

This is a production that has met much controversy. The fact that homosexuality is a predominant part of The Laramie Project becomes something many choose to dwell on. It is even picketed and thought by many to be terrible and immoral. The truly terrible thing about this production is the fact that this young man had to die for this revelation to happen. However, The Laramie Project isn't about hate. What the play centers around is hope for the future of equality and acceptance. And this theme is something that Stage 2 made abundantly clear in their production of The Laramie Project.

The Laramie Project which opened at the University of Minnesota Duluth on Thursday night was a production with a message. The director Mackenzie McCullum was behind the Laramie projects outstanding performance. This production would not have been possible without McCullums dedication to the play. She did a phenomenal job of creating a production with such a big message. The message was centered on hope and understanding and was very powerful throughout the entire production.
There were many aspects that went into making the play as convincing as it was. With not much of a budget to create an extravagant stage The Laramie Project made their simple stage work very well. With the simple stage it helped put all the attention on what was actually happening on the set. Also the lighting of the stage really made a difference. It made the play that much more convincing and also had a big impact on the mood that was being set, while also putting the attention on the actors that were acting at a given time. What was even more impressive was that the cast of eight individuals played multiple roles in the play. The outfit changes and also the change of voices helped the audience keep the members straight. Due to the simple set and one cast member playing multiple characters the play had a narrator. The narrator helped clear away any questions/confusion and helped keep the characters straight to the audience. They were very convincing and left a message of honesty with the audience.
The production was focused around one individual named Matthew Shepard who was murdered due to his sexual orientation in Laramie Wyoming. Since the play was a documentary it didn’t focus as much on the murder but rather how the town and community reacted to the event. The play was so convincing and had you feeling like the event was actually taking place right before your eyes. With pressure on the cast to perform to the high expectations while also delivering a message made the members work to such a high potential. All members performed while putting the audience in awe. The message the performers had to portray was hope and equality. The message of hope was clear and really had the audience feelings that there is still hope.
The cast of The Laramie Project did a phenomenal job! They really made the production believable and enjoyable for the audience. Overall great job to the actors who made the performance possible while playing so many roles flawlessly. The message of hope and equality was defiantly delivered and had an emotional impact. With such a powerful performance and message it was not a surprise that audience members left the play in tears. The play fell close to the anniversary to this tragic incident and was a good way to educate others on the event that happened in Laramie almost thirteen years ago. The standing ovation was well deserved for an amazing performance!

Remarkable. Heart-felt. Honest. These are just three of the thousand words that can describe Thursday night’s performance of The Laramie Project. Based upon over two hundred interviews conducted by Moisés Kaufman and the members of the Tectonic Theater Project, The Laramie Project tells the story of Matthew Shepard and his premature death, being brutally murdered by two men because of his sexual orientation. The story raced across the country, labeled as a hate crime against the gay community, and drew much unwanted attention upon the citizens of Laramie, Wyoming, where Matthew’s death, as well as most of the interviews that make up the production, took place. The interviews provided multiple views and opinions on Matthew’s brutal death for the script of The Laramie Project, giving the excellent performers and director a story that truly challenges and inspires.

With a play so controversial, it can be difficult to direct, but MacKenzie McCullum was brilliant in her execution. Each scene was directed to be very moving and powerful, and passed along her message of hope, The Laramie Project’s message of hope, amidst a world of hate and unease. McCullum utilized every single part of the sparsely designed stage in the Dudley Theater to create the illusion of the multiple locations where each interview took place, which really emphasized the excellent performances of each actor. She also recognized that the performance wasn’t just for the audience’s sake, but was bigger than itself; it was a memorial for Matthew and his story. To make the performance even more powerful and poignant, the anniversary of Matthew’s death was the weekend the show was running.

With over thirty different characters to be portrayed, the eight performers definitely had their fair share of work on stage. Having just one role can be very daunting, let alone four or five, and these actors excelled way beyond anyone’s expectations. The honest, relatable characters portrayed by each and every single performer were nearly flawless in every way, captivating the audience and tugging on their heartstrings. To help make the transitions between each actor’s characters as smooth as possible, especially with how quick some of the changes were, the wardrobe and lighting simple, yet effective. Wardrobe and set changes were made on stage during the performance, not detracting, but enhancing the performance by highlighting the mesmerizing acting, as well as the hard work and dedication put in by the cast and crew.

Stage 2’s cast and crew brought the audience to Laramie, Wyoming amidst a tragedy and returned them with opinions formed and altered, a new awareness of those around them, and an unbounded message of hope. Hearts were touched and tears were shed, much to the credit of the passionate performances of the cast and dedication of the director. All in all, The Laramie Project was an outstanding experience for anyone who entered the Dudley Theater and I believe, wholeheartedly, every one involved deserved the one hundred empty seats and roaring applause at the end of the performance.

The Laramie Project proved to be a production that delivered a powerful message of hope. The director, Mackenzie McCullum, did a wonderful job directing the play. She put the audience face to face with this tragic event that happened to an innocent human being and showed how hope prevailed over everything.
The show centered not around how Matthew Shephard was killed, but instead it was a collage of interviews put together to tell the story from the perspective of different individuals from the town of Laramie. Each actor was put to the task of playing multiple roles, as the interviews were taken from many different people in the community. The acting was phenomenal. All of the actors were able to play they're many different roles and each role played was given a one of a kind personality, giving the audience the chance to truly see how this tragedy came to affect so many different people.
Further adding to the success of the The Laramie Project production was the unique fashion in which they presented the acting and interviews. The three stage, tier structure made it possible for the audience to focus and connect with the actor that was speaking. The way in which the actors that were not in the spotlight stood still, not moving, really aided in focusing the audience's full attention on the actor in the spotlight.
The actors were put to the challenge of changing between characters quickly as the play progressed and new characters were introduced into the story. The ways in which the actors executed the character transitions throughout the play were not only efficient, but were executed in amazing fashion. Accompanied with the superb acting, the diverse roles were further individualized and made more real to the audience by the highly efficient and very smooth character transitions.
The Laramie Project succeeded on all levels and delivered the message of hope that it wanted to in it's own unique way. The play showed audience members how hope not only heals, but hope brings people together. Hope bridges the gap between people and it bands them together in way that is strong and lasting. This production delivered to the audience on all levels. It delivered on the message of hope that the director, Mackenzie McCullum, wanted exactly to portray. The Laramie Project was greatly unique, very gripping, and a spectacular performance all around.

Emotional, inspiring, and honest; these three words alone describe what the Laramie Project portrayed. Although the beginning started out a little choppy, it soon started to flow together. Making the point of this performance very clear.

It was meant to be touching and cause a reaction. Making it a very courageous topic to choose, it could have gone either way; good or bad. It clearly portrayed what was meant to be portrayed. A story that had an effect on many people, not only in the town of Laramie but all around the world. It shed light on how different people have different views. This performance revolved around a crime that was committed in the town of Laramie. It was a hate crime that was based on a man's sexual orientation and there was a lot of debate and controversy on who provoked it and who was to blame. This performance did a fantastic job of showing each side. From the religious views to the views of law enforcement and everything in between.

Mackenzie McCullum's was very brave in choosing this play. She did an amazing job and inspires others to make decisions many people may disagree with. The actors also did a fantastic job, going back and forth between characters isn't easy and even though it got a little confusing at the beginning, it turned out to be very affective. They jumped into it with just the right amount of confidence and emotion. The set up was simple but the actors made their surroundings mean something very quickly and effectively.

With the mix of a great director, great actors, and an amazingly touching story line. This play was absolutely tremendous. The emotional affect it had on the audience was astonishing. Topics such as hate crimes are something that should be brought to light around the world. This performance showed one more great way to create awareness. Keep it up McCullums and Stage 2, more plays with controversial topics are needed to create voices, who may have been to scared to come forward before watching a performance such as the Laramie Project.

Such a serious topic, a true story of a gay hate crime can be extremely difficult and draining for actors and actresses to perform. Really embodying the characters and making them commit fully brings a performance to next level. This is exactly what every actor of Stage 2 did on Thursday night with The Laramie Project at the Dudley Theatre.
The Dudley Theatre and its close proximities of the audience to the performers, created a very intimate and personal environment, which enhanced the relationship of the actors and the audience even more than what was already accomplished through their acting abilities. The simplicity of the set, three platforms, some chairs and a fence, let the audience concentrate on the actors and what they had to say.
This play didn’t really focus on the murder of Mathew Sheppard, but how the people of Laramie, Wyoming reacted. This play was in a documentary format, every word of this play came from interviews which made it very interesting to see how the actors could adapt to this style. Each performer played multiple characters, and the ability to switch their accents, personalities, and body language was just a site to be seen. Kaio Kealoha was exceptionally talented transitioning for the Doc and the Bartender, who both had strong personality traits and mannerisms. Not only Kealoha but all the actors and actresses were so believable in the sense they were seen as people from Laramie and not actors trying to play a character.
Seeing Erin Miller playing the boy who had found Mathew that day, and seeing him scared and distraught to the point of crying, makes an audience feels for this young man as if he truly was there and went through all this. Definitely a play to be seen and acknowledged for everyone in stage 2 but also a message of equality and hope.

The Laramie Project was a phenomenal theatre production. The audience seemed to be touched by the acting, as tears and sniffles filled the theatre from many. The acting of 20 or so different characters by only eight different actors was truly intriguing.
The director may have wanted to bring back the memory of the Matthew Shepard incident, and the heinous hate crime that occurred because the boy was gay. This play showed that hating and killing someone for whom they like is wrong and a tragedy. That murder didn’t just hurt the ones involved, but also the ones that knew Matthew, and the killers for that matter. The family and friends of Matthew were devastated, and the acting was great with the emotions of all the characters. The Laramie Project started out confusing because a small number of people played many different parts. Once the play got rolling, and all of the characters were revealed the play got more interesting and believable. The characters were phenomenal and jerked a lot of tears from the audience.
This was and amazing play not just because of the acting, but also because of the little prop usage during the production. They needed a chair here and there and a fence that was similar to the real fence that Matthew Shepard was beaten. The lights were good with zooming in on a certain scene to black out the background, which ended up being other scenes from the story. The music in the background was well picked out, and went with the play quite well. It created a mood in the scene, so the audience could feel what was going on as well as see it.
This production was a must go to that everyone should see. It showed many lessons to be learned; it showed what hate crimes can do to a whole town. This production can be put to more terms than just gay hate. There is still racism hate, territory hate, etc that needs to be resolved so no more crimes like Matthew Shepard’s happens again.

The Laramie Project was a performance that was gripping, and for sure hit the issues in society today. This production was sure to depress you and make you laugh with it's variety of characters that either the audience loved or hated. With that in mind it's good to state that the cast of this production was unbelievable. To be able for a little then less than 8 cast to play at least 10 plus characters each was remarkable. However there were a few instances where actors fell out of character but, it's understandable with the complexity of this play. And they did damn good job of doing it. What else was amazing was how simple the set was. It goes to show that this production didn't need the fancy gimmicks or either elaborate scenery to grip the audiences' attention. all they needed was the most important thing, acting!
All and all, the production was a success! The artists really did a marvelous job of telling a story of a town that was hit with a sucker punch and how they progressed through the ashes. It was well worth the time and effort to put on this production and they should continue the great work!

The Laramie Project was a very touching play. Instead of focusing on Matthew Shepard and his killers this play turns its attention to friends, acquaintances and the town itself. It was odd seeing the actors transition from one character to another but did it so fluidly that it was barely noticeable especially when other members of the cast were present. Sound was a problem, at times the music was a bit too loud making it hard to hear what the actors were saying. There was also no variety in music.
It was a nice choice indeed to not focus on the aspect of homosexuality in the play, while it did play into the reason of his murder. This was not a play about the atrocity committed or the hate others feel towards those who are different. This was a play about a town you could find anywhere now defined by its reaction to an event.
With its relatively small cast the actors were able to change elements of their wardrobe and speech while on stage to inform us that they were no longer the same character, and while each character is named two or more times, it eventually becomes almost unnecessary as even though the name might not be remembered each character is unique enough that the importance and individual identity is remembered.
The music was very repetitive and lost its meaning after some time, the same sad tune only stays sad for so long no matter how sad the scene is. It was also a bit too loud during certain points, compared to how loud the speaking actors were, making it a challenge to hear and understand what was going on in a scene. Music adds so much to a scene bit it should never overpower the actors lines.

The Laramie Project was a unique play by being produced in a documentary way through real interviews. There were several individuals being perceived through the play, and only eight actors/actresses to produce those roles. The actors/actresses often had quick “costume” changes, and sometimes their apparel change was done on stage. This did not detract from the play- rather, it helped the audience automatically see that the actor has now switched to a different character. The narrator was also helpful with telling the audience the names of each “interviewee”.
There were several characters on stage at once, though the focus was on the actors one-by-one. The spotlight was used to emphasize our attention to the role being portrayed- Saturday night’s lights could have focused more on the speaker and dimmed the background lights on the others on stage. There may have been a blip in the light system for a moment when the spotlight moved and switched on and off. This was not too detracting- only for those who purposefully paid attention to it.
The music placed in the background of The Laramie Project fit well to the scenes. The music was not played constantly, but put in more often towards the end. In one interview of the play, the characters were in a bar and the music was a faded oldies tune. The rest of the music was purely instrumental and increased the emotion of the play.
The Laramie Project was not completely centered around Matthew, but more on how the town and others associated reacted to the event and the people. The play seemed to have a blanket of hope wrapped around all the interviews. This hope may well have been created from the attitudes of the townsfolk. They never seemed angry. Mournful, grieved, but never angry. They looked towards Matthew with delight of memories. The way Matthew’s close friend, Romaine, reacted to the man who preached against homosexuality at his funeral as well as the trial- by gathering other friends, and encircling the man in wings while singing “Amazing Grace”- really showed humane and effective support. This scene was one of the most emotional. The song could be heard being sung offstage, and was continued as they all blocked out the man. I heard many sniffles throughout the play- but mostly at this scene.
I’m glad the playwright put in interviews of more than just supporting Matthew Shepard. There was a woman who believed Matthew’s story to be overdone. Her husband had a man on his state patrol team who had been murdered that same night, and the woman showed great annoyance that this man’s life was given much less media than Matthew’s.
Although the play was given as interviews post Matthew’s death, many monologues made it rewind to the present of that night, such as when the police officer retold her story of when she was called to the buckfence and saw Matthew, trying all she could to help rescue him.
The Catholic minister said several times throughout the play, “You must say it correct- it is your responsibility to do that.” The director Mackenzie McCullem, along with the playwright Moises Kaufman, did so remarkably.

The Laramie Project was a fantastic documentary play that everyone should have a chance to see in their lifetime. It was a very touching play, but at the same time had moments of comedy that eased some of the emotional tension that was looming in the air. The actors all did a superb job in making each character their own. Though you could tell that an actor or actress was playing multiple characters, each character had their own personality, and each actor managed to individualize every character in the show. The actors also did an amazing job at acting in general. The emotions were so well portrayed that many people in the audience were tearing up. Not only was the acting great, but the set was very minimalistic, a quality that helped draw our attention away from the set, and brought it to the story itself, further immersing us in it. The music was a bit loud at some spots and there seemed to be a light malfunction during a characters monologue, but these things can’t be avoided; no show can be absolutely perfect. But that being said, the show was overall just a great success. Director Mackenzie McCullem had a great envision of this play, and she really knocked it out of the park.

When director, Mackenzie McCullum, took this production into her hands, she was given the opportunity to provide the audience with a stellar performance. The significance of hope and faith in this play rang true from start to finish. The Laramie Project is a raw and emotional play and McCullum did an excellent job of portraying these feelings throughout. The script of the play definitely gave the audience an entire new insight into the lives of the community of Laramie, but also gave the director a huge challenge to portray the lives of these people synonymously to the interviews given.

The cast seemed as though this was a story they had actually experienced. Because the eight cast members were playing multiple roles, their sincerity and honesty to each individual character made it easy to differentiate one character from another. Playing eight characters is an enormous task to take on and it was clear to the audience that they appreciated the hard work that went into the memorization of lines, the distinct characteristics, and different personalities played. The cast, being only feet from the audience, did an astounding job of keeping their composure, even when on occasion things went south. The costume design was a key element in the success of this production and because the costumes were so simple, the cast had a large role to fill so the audience could understand the different characters.

When reading about the play before hand it seems as though this production is focused largely on gay rights and local citizens reactions and thoughts to it. However, upon exiting the play, the audience as a whole seemed to have gotten a much different message. Hope and faith seemed to be what struck most of the audience, regardless of their beliefs on the topic.

The set of The Laramie Project was simplistic, yet it worked for the message being painted. This play is unique in the fact that it doesn’t need complex scenes to do what the play is intended to. The uncomplicated platforms, with very minimal props, were perfect for the interviews that took place. The lighting was also simple, shining predominantly on the actor/actress speaking. This provided the audience with very little distraction from the message that was being sent. The play as a whole was very well written; it elegantly showed Matthew’s family, friends, and community’s reaction to such a shocking event. There were contrasting views to all interviews and it seemed very necessary that the play was written this way. Because there are always contrasting views, especially on this subject matter, it is important to keep the dialogue open like it was.

Overall the production of The Laramie Project was a huge success. There were very few dry eyes through the duration of the entire performance, however it was made clear in the talk back that it was not the intention for the play to be sad. The intent of the play, and a central reason for the tears in the theatre, were based on the performance’s ability to both touch and move the audience. Hats off to the cast, Mackenzie McCullum, and all who worked on this performance. It was truly a moving experience.

Laramie Project, the play shown on Oct, 7th, shouted toward the whole crowds the irrational hatred our societies are confronting now. The impression of the play was very stunning in terms of the way that the play represented the issue of the real world in a very realistic tone on the play stage. It cannot be seen in any other way, but the amusement the play gave was the result of the great collaboration of the staff.
First, considering that the production was made with such limited finances, the scenes shown on the stage were unbelievably dynamic and beautiful. The director, Mackenzie McCullum, would have played the major role to make every scene show different aspects of the murder case. Throughout the show, audiences have seen so many characters who talked about different points of view about the murder case. Besides, the scenes were so dynamic that the terms between the scenes were short and characters showing on the stage have shifted every scene. Even with the possible hardships to make precise scenes, the director seemed to have succeeded in making every scene look discrete from one another. The stage was built in multidimensional structure so all the actors to be shown evenly. At the same time, the structure worked well to form a drastic effect too. In the ‘preaching scenes,’ actors were placed in a higher position so that the speech to be heard more religious and drastic. Light effects used for dramatic effects matched well with the situations. For instance, the blue light which was used when the murderer was being accused showed the murderer’s evil and cold-blooded character. By discretely describing each scene through the mentioned foot works, Mackenzie McCullum might have intended how the incident could be shown by different individuals and if it was her intention, it went how it meant to be.
The ‘collaboration’ does include more than one component, and another that filled the blank was the actors. Actors played about more than two characters on the stage. Each of the character had unique age, behavior, personality, beliefs and accents. And the audiences seemed that they were not struggling to remember and recognize one from another because the actors knew well how characters were different. Besides, actors acted convincing characters using southern accents, voice tone, and facial expressions. It must have been much harder for the actors to act convincing characters in the Laramie Project because the form was mostly ‘interview.’ That means that the actors should have presented the characters’ belief systems and personality through rather calm and rational acting than emotional one, which might require highly sophisticated acting skill. Thanks for the actors and actresses, the play was just like watching a well made documentary show on discovery channel.
In sum, the play Laramie Project was very realistic, but at the same time dramatic. The credit was for both the director and the actors. Director was very creative with producing the stage and scenes and actors seemed to have done whatever they were gave. The collaboration between the two well-prepared components made the show totally worthy to go and spend three hours seeing it.

The opening night of The Laramie Project presented by Stage 2 at the Dudley Experimental Theatre was an outstanding performance. It was MacKenzie McCullum’s first directorial debut with a play that deals a controversial topic of homosexuality. But this play was more than just about homosexuality it was about hope and understanding. MacKenzie McCullum guided the audience the whole night with humility and grace on the anniversary of when Matthew Shepard encountered the two young men that viciously beat and left him for dead, tied up to a fence.
After a five minute wait the show began and the actors were greeted up on stage to a packed house of around 100 people. The majority of the audience members were college age students however; there were some younger and older people that came by to enjoy the play as well. The stage was sparsely setup with three platforms, three chairs, and one buck fence, creating an intimate feel for the audience to enjoy. Besides some technical difficulties the lights only enhanced the play, set the mood, and the most important, directed the audience to what character to focus on at what moment.
The actors wore simple costumes since each of the eight cast members played around eight different roles as the residents of Laramie, Wyoming. The costumes helped the audience to identify which resident the actor was portraying and there was a narrator to help too. However, these simple additions were nothing compared how the actor’s did a fabulous job on creating and maintaining the individual characters through their vocal and body actions.
The portrayal of the large age ranges and cultural backgrounds of the residences of Laramie, even without the use of heavy makeup had the audience captivated with the performance. During the most emotional scenes such as the description of finding Matthew Shepard by Aaron Kreifels, the protest at Matthew’s funeral by a church group, and his friend Romaine Patterson leading a counter protest by dressing up as angels and blocking the church group from view was heavily charged with emotion. There were audible signs of weeping which is not surprising since the actors were filled with such passion as they performed that it rubbed off on the audience and deeply affected them.
What The Laramie Project made clear was this was not a play just about homosexuality it was about hope for the future. The hope of the residents of Laramie that they wouldn’t be branded and their lives can return to normal. The hope that people can live there lives how they want, and the hope of understanding each other as humans. This play was created from the moments of the residents of Laramie caught by the members of the Tectonic Theater Project after a tragic incident and by capturing these moments they secured a continued interest in Matthew Shepard and of the town of Laramie, Wyoming but not for the worst but for the best understanding of what it’s like being human.

The Laramie Project portrayed Matthew's story with extraordinary care, and precision. The way the story was focused around the towns point of views really brought the story to life. The small set and many characters changing before the audience was certainly different, but definatley added to how unqiue this performance was.
The actor's and actresses did not need a huge line of props, or an enormous stage. The Laramie Project's story was simple and tragic, but the magnificent message had such a great reaction which filled the room with tears. WIth only 8 actors and 36 characters portrayed, these actors did an amazing job. Everytime a character changed into another it was liberating to see what was next, just to watch the personalities change to fit the next person.
It was also interesting to see how many different points of view their were. Some people felt sorrow and missed Matthew. Many people felt strongly behind how his death made such an impact on gays. And others who felt no remorse and thought that his death had nothing to do with a hate crime.
The town of Laramie will be known for this death for a long time, clearly something they don't want to be known for. This play shows how even small towns can make an impact when one of their own kills another.
Mackenzie McCullen attempted to achieve greatness with this controversal play, and by all means did she create nothing less than excellence.

After seeing The Laramie Project on Thursday night at The University of Minnesota Duluth there were no words that could describe how amazing the performance was. The director Mackenzie McCullum did a wonderful job capturing the message of The Laramie Project and describing it to the performers in a way that made it seem that we were reliving the story as if we had been there many years ago.

The performers had a lot of pressure to do a great job since most of them were playing more than once character throughout the performance. They did a great job capturing each character even though they had to be multiple people in one production. Mackenzie McCullum knew exactly what she wanted each character to do during the production and successfully achieved that goal. All the performers seemed to have the same outlook on the play which helped it for her to capture the message that she wanted to capture.

Stage 2 at the University of Minnesota Duluth is a place that doesn’t get much funding for the productions that are put on there. For the small amount of cash that was available to them to create the set and the costumes for the production they did a wonderful job doing that. Apply in the set it was a very good idea for the set makers to have the set at different level points to make it easier for people to understand what was going on and the different scenes of the play to make sure that the audience didn’t confused. The narrator of the play also helped bring the confusion down. Mackenzie McCullum and the director worked very hard on all the little aspects of the play and it showed.

The message of this play is probably the biggest part of seeing the play. Mackenzie McCullum did a phenomenal job of showing what the message of the play was and not actually coming out and saying exactly what the message was. The audience definitely left the theater having a different mindset about accepting people that are different then us or choose to do things differently than from who we are. Even if you didn’t have the same views as the performers and the playwright Mackenzie McCullum, the audience could see the toll it takes on people that choose to be gay and how rude people can be to people that aren’t the same or don’t have the same beliefs as them. Not everyone in the world has the same beliefs about being gay, lesbian, or bisexual but after seeing The Laramie Project you could see that a part of hearts opened up and were understanding to people that are gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

Props go out to Mackenzie McCullum, the director, and the performers for putting on a wonderful show for all to see. The storyline of this play had a great impact on the audience. The people of Stage 2 at The University of Minnesota Duluth should be very proud of the performance they put on. Keep up the amazing work, all of you deserve it.

On Saturday afternoon, UMD’s Stage 2 theatre group performed The Laramie Project directed by Mackenzie McCullum. The show stared just a few actors and had a basic set, but this didn’t hinder the performance by any means. Each actor did a remarkable job of playing multiple believable and different characters and the simple set made for the focus of the play to be on the message of The Laramie Project rather than the theatrics of the set. The cast of this show all had a difficult job of playing multiple roles but every individual was up to the challenge. If it weren’t for the onstage costume changes the audience wouldn’t even recognize the same actor twice.
One character that was undeniably sincere was the boy who first found Matthew Shepard tied to the buck fence. Portrayed by Erin Miller, this character struggled with his beliefs and emotions following the Matthew Sheppard incident and questioned why God wanted him to be the one to find Matthew. As the play progressed, Miller did an astounding job of conveying this boy’s internal struggle for answers. In the final scene before intermission, Miller had an emotional monologue that had the audience close to tears. The boy, along with the town of Laramie, wondered why me, why us, and why Laramie and the acting really spoke to those emotions.
With a small set and even smaller budget, McCullum and those who worked on The Laramie Project had the difficult task of trying to create the dozen different sites of Laramie all on one stage. This was accomplished through very innovative lighting. One scene in particular that showed off their ability to create a whole new place just through lighting was when Aaron McKinney was being interrogated. McKinney sat in a single chair stage right and was a silhouette surrounded by a bright beaming light. This gave the effect of the audience being in the interrogation with McKinney. Another scene where the play succeeded in creating the illusion they were somewhere else came towards the end of the show. The scene featured the preacher being blocked by the “angels” in the crowd. The way the preacher was standing on the stage and how the angels blocked him made the audience feel as if they were part of the memorial crowd at Mathew’s funeral.
The Laramie Project is a play about Matthew Shepard, a gay college student who was brutally murdered for being different. The Laramie Project is a play about hope. H-O-P-E. The Laramie Project is a play about differences and equality. It is about religion and human nature. This play by Stage 2 addressed all these themes through superb acting and engaging storytelling. The Laramie Project should be seen by everyone regardless of their stance on homosexuality because it provides the audience with a channel to look at themselves. The events surrounding Matthew Shepard and Laramie, Wyoming are of great importance and should not be overlooked. This play tells Matthew’s story and hopes to pull the cover from over our eyes. It teaches us to hope and McCullum and Stage 2 did a moving job of showing the audience on Saturday afternoon how to do just that. Hope.

The Laramie Project was an outstanding production directed by Mackenzie McCullum. This documentary could not have been portrayed in a more “correct way” by the cast of Stage 2. They made the audience laugh, the audience cried and at times the room was completely silent. How the documentary was put together in such a “real” form, all of the different characters one actor or actress played, and the physically powerful emotions each character made the audience feel are all things that made this production so influential.

Hearing that The Laramie Project was going to be produced as a documentary was concerning. Visualizing the end product was difficult to picture. To this disbelief a lot of people were proven wrong. The news reports that acted out how important Mathew’s death was, was very impressive. To some this was a huge turning point in the production. It was a very powerful and moving scene, but not the most passionate. Listening to the boy who found Mathew, and his story; hearing what he went through, gave the audience members chills. After this part in the production the chills only became more intense, they did not go away. The Laramie Project as a documentary was better than any film produced documentary for one reason. This reason being is that the actors and actresses were right in front of you. One could easily be engulfed in a scene. They felt like no one else was in the room. These characters were “real.”

As we have heard Stage 2 is a smaller group of actors and actresses. They made proper use of their props and acting area. Each actor and actress was not just committed to one character. People were playing many roles. This does not seem like something that is easily accomplished. Stage 2 did a wonderful job in portraying each character in the right way. It was not made known to the audience that people put more effort into one individual character than another. This was a good thing, the whole play could have gone downhill if the actors and actresses did not treat each character equally.

When people hear about Laramie, and what happen they do not smile and they do not laugh. This shows that this is not a story to be made fun of nor talked about in the “wrong way.” It is also not a story that is meant to be silenced. During the play one could hear the tears of the people behind you, the individual sitting next to you twitch or tense up, and all audience members could see the tears on the actors themselves. Many people attended this production for various reasons. Some knew what had happened in Laramie, some had no idea. Yet, everyone left the theatre feeling compelled.

Stage 2 is known for being a little more risky when it comes to a performance. That being said, some feel that The Laramie Project targets more of a college crowd. After all Mathew was a college student himself. This created a standard connection for many UMD students. Stage 2 produced The Laramie Project in the “correct way.” After all it was their “responsibility to do that.”

H-O-P-E. The intention of The Laramie Project was to instill hope in the audience members and help them cherish it, and by the end of the production was successful in doing so. The feelings and heart felt emotions that this production instilled in its audience were truly electrifying. Everything from the cast to the set to the lighting and music helped the audience to achieve these things. All aspects of the production helped to place the audience right into the moments and events that The Laramie Project revolves around.

The Laramie Project focuses on the brutal hateful murder of Mathew Shepard, a 21 year old, gay, University of Wyoming student. His murder was conducted by two of his peers who didn’t care for the way he lived his life. The play gives a story of a theater company that goes to Laramie, Wyoming to conduct interviews of the town’s people who were in witness to the murder of Mathew Shepard. It tells of their feelings of grief, hatred and empathy towards the murder and specifically towards the Shepard family. By telling this story the director, MacKenzie McCullum, was trying to accomplish the task of retelling Shepard’s story as true as possible. She wanted to bring back the story of The Laramie Project and tell it to the truest of her abilities. Leading up to this production there were some incidents of discrimination on the UMD campus, so McCullum wanted to tell Shepard’s story of discrimination in a way that was truthful and honest. She succeeded in doing this, and she even went above and beyond. She coached her actors and produced her set so that this story of discrimination was utterly truthful. Her actors presented the story so that it was so honest it almost hurt, but in a good way. It made the audience hurt in a way that made them truly feel how discrimination affects people. McCullum was the key in helping the audience to feel these emotions to the fullest.

McCullum achieved this goal of truthfulness so well that it made the audience urging for more, which is why many of the members of the audience stayed for the talk-back session which happened after the production. This talk-back session involved the Multicultural Center and the audience members discussing the production and how this story of discrimination made them feel. This talk-back session brought forth the issue of discrimination on campus and compared it to the discrimination that is felt during this play. The amazing rendition of The Laramie Project in conjunction with the ability to talk about the issues in the talk-back session truly made this production worth the effort put into its attempt.

Discrimination and the idea of hope were the main two themes in this production, but McCullum also added new and insightful ideas into this story. She brought forth the ideas that a hateful event like Shepard’s murder had a ripple effect. This means that not only the Shepard family and close friends were affected, but the town’s people were affected too. Also, so many people around the world heard about this hate crime because of The Laramie Project that words of sympathy and compassion were sent to the town of Laramie. McCullum also brought forth the concept that just because a community seems to be innocent and free of violence doesn’t mean it is true. This is the idea that just because people say “It wouldn’t happen here, in Laramie”, is not necessarily true. The events are usually even more brutal but they just get brushed under the rug of life.

Yes, The Laramie Project wasn’t perfect. The production time ran two and a half hours which made it seem a little long and tedious. The monologues tended to be too long and the events after Shepard’s death could have been condensed. If it was cut down to just over an hour the content would still be there but the production as a whole wouldn’t have seemed so monotonous. Overall, the production was exceptions. It was something that was out of the box for UMD Stage 2, and it brought forth many issues that are relevant to students today. It is something that Stage 2 and McCullum should be very proud of.

“The Laramie Project,” performed at UMD’s Stage 2 and the actors and director that took part in the making of the play, succeeded in riveting their audience with a powerful message, a skilled performance, and ideal dynamics of the stage. The background of the play is about a young college student, Matthew Shepard, from Laramie Wyoming who was the victim of a heinous hate crime that resulted in his brutal murder. The content of the play is a documentary about the aftermath of the incident and how the townspeople were affected by the social implications. In addition, through the play, the audience too received a chance to experience the same emotions that many of the townspeople experienced by empathizing with the incredible performance that the actors of the show put on.
In this enactment of “The Laramie Project,” UMD’s Stage 2 was an ideal setting for the type of show that was put on. Usually in plays, the actors of performing to the back row. This means that they will use exaggerated movements and other tactics to entertain the back row as well as the front row. At Stage 2 however, the back row is the same as the third row. This makes for an altogether better performance of “The Laramie Project” because the actors of the show were able to capture the audience member’s hearts through the prevalent emotion on their character’s faces. A notable example of this is the actor who plays the person who found Matthew in his near death state. In this scene the actor described what it was like to be the one to discover such a horrible crime scene. After he was done with his part though, his character remained in a locked state of saddened remembrance of the crime he discovered. The emotional depth that he displayed caught the eye of many audience members and almost spread to them as well.
Another notable performance was the actor who played the bartender. All of the actors in “The Laramie Project” played a variety of roles very excellently, but the actor who played the bartender may have stuck out as the one who caught the attention of the most audience members during the most number of times throughout the play. He was able to display a variety of emotions and characters ranging from one that supported and pitied Matthew to ones that were less sympathetic. He truly did an excellent job in his roles.
The intention of “The Laramie Project” was to touch the audience emotionally with the tale of Mathew Shepard and the aftereffect that his murder had on Laramie, and the play did just that. The social implications that are a result of the incident were displayed very prominently by the play and adequately reached every person that attended it. It is a message of hope, that even though an incident like Matthew Shepard’s can happen, out of it comes a cry for change in the way that society thinks and acts towards every member of every type of culture in society. “The Laramie Project” displayed that message proudly, and the audience heard the message on the night of the performance.

An absolutely engaging performance of The Laramie Project took place on an unassuming Saturday afternoon. It has been getting quite a bit of publicity on campus which made it an absolute “must see” and it did not disappoint. Taking place in the quaint Stage 2 theatre it hit all the intimacies a space like that is supposed to have. The audience cried, laughed, and gasped together at what they experienced that afternoon, and that is no easy task in theatre.
It was quite evident that MacKenzie McCullum put her all into this show and with good reason. The Laramie Project can be a difficult show to undertake, but the performance showed none of the strain of production. Immediately after the first word was spoken on stage McCullum’s artistic direction was present, and guided the show. Though this can turn out badly in some productions it worked flawlessly for this one. The audience felt included rather than dragged along by someone else’s vision. Matthew Shepard’s story was presented in a way so raw that it felt like a close friend had been lost. Laramie, Wyoming was staring directly at every face in that theatre, and every person in that theatre could see its sparkling lights.
All of the difficulties this show might have faced comprehensively were dealt with beautifully. The different heights of platforms separated what characters were involved where. It helped differentiate characters as well as timing between events. Quick costume changes were sometimes required on stage but this took place in a very non-distracting way and did not detract from what was presently happening. Use of a narrator that weaved in and out of the show cleared up any other confusion. An eerie and haunting soundtrack accompanied the show and made it almost impossible to not feel involved because it matched the emotion of every moment so well.
Every actor in The Laramie Project was a trooper. Between balancing near eight different characters with eight different sets of lines, speedy costume changes, and the audience staring at them from two feet away their job was more akin to acting Olympics. Still, they all dealt with this pressure with grace. Only one actor seemed to have trouble, and even that was minimal and only noticeable because he consistently misspoke his lines but never dropped character. While none of the actor’s characters are listed the person who played the boy that found Matthew was particularly touching. Many of the audience members were stifling tears not only while he spoke but when he sat and cried on the edge of the stage. A space like The Dudley Experimental Theatre only adds to the actor’s performance, and especially for a play like this one.
The Laramie Project was a well-executed and raw retelling of a tragic event. McCullum, the cast, crew, and everyone involved should be proud of this show. It set the bar for what a theatre on a budget and limited resources can achieve.

Stage 2’s production of The Laramie Project on Friday night was thought provoking and poignant. The uniqueness of The Laramie Project’s script alone makes the play stand out; and with sparse setting and few actors, it was clear that the play was for far more than entertainment. It was meant to share the powerful message of despair, truth, and especially hope. The story of Matthew Shepard’s brutal murder and its residual effect on the town of Laramie, Wyoming provide an insight of genuine human emotions after facing such a horrific event.

With an amazing difficult script, consisting of mostly enormously emotional monologues, a show like The Laramie Project is hard to pull off. With that in mind, Stage 2’s actors did a remarkable job. There were a few line errors that were easily recognized by the audience but not because the of the actual error. What took away from the quality of the play was that a few of the actors dropped character briefly and it was easy to see the nervousness in the actors. Though brief, this break in character detracted from the extremely emotional nature of the play. The one other barrier between the audience and the actor’s emotions was the difficulty in keeping track of so many characters. Each actor was extremely talented and all presented some of their characters beautifully. The hard part is that there were so many characters. If unfamiliar with the play, it is hard to keep track of all the characters and though names were given of each character, after seven or eight names, it becomes too many. Characters with more lines, unique character traits, exceptionally powerful scenes, or distinctive clothes were easier to remember, but many of the smaller roles did not have these differentiators. Though these two things did take away from play, Stage 2 still moved the audience and preformed The Laramie Project exceptionally well. More practice and further development of some of the lesser characters would have been all Stage 2 needed to make a more consistent connection with the audience. Though consistency was lacking there were many scenes that made the audience ache with emotion. The scene with Matthew’s father speaking on the death penalty was by far one of the most stirring scenes in the entire play and was carried out spectacularly. Matthew’s friend, Romaine’s first scene when she talks about how he would stare at people in the coffee shop, pulled at a lot of heartstrings.

Leaving the show on Friday night, it was hard not to be feeling a range of emotions from anger to hope. If a play can create that much emotional conflict in an audience member, it must have been a high-quality show and Stage 2’s production of The Laramie Project was definitely that. Not only did it stir the audience, but it informed and expressed a message of hope. It was so much more than just a play. It was a testament to Matthew and the people of Laramie. Attending The Laramie Project was a worthwhile way to spend a Friday night and Stage 2 deserves every applaud they received for performing such a controversial and difficult play.

Powerful was the overwhelming feeling as the audience walked out of the Dudley Experimental Theatre Saturday afternoon. This play was performed the same weekend that this all took place thirteen years ago and it really brought the message of the play forward. H-O-P-E. This is the message director MacKenzie McCullum wanted to portray in her production of The Laramie Project. She and the small cast of eight did an outstanding job.

Matthew Shepard was a homosexual college student at the University of Wyoming. One night in October, thirteen years ago, he was taken from a bar and driven to the outskirts of Laramie. There he was tied to a buck fence, beaten mercilessly and left to die. Matthew, barley alive was found by a cyclist eighteen hours later. As this crime made national news, the people of Laramie were forced to look at themselves and their once peaceful small town in a completely different light.

A straightforward and simple set was appropriate for this play. Raised platforms and chairs provided enough of a separation between the characters and their scenes. A buck fence remained in the background to serve as a reminder of where Matthew was found. Although it remained behind a lot of the action, it had profound effect. The lights were simple. They consisted of a spotlight emphasizing the characters as they recited their monologues. Upon entering the theatre, there was soft music, soft music could be heard. The songs were calming and full of hope and love. This complimented the play’s message perfectly. The sound effects during some of the scenes were quiet did not detract from what was happening. The plain costumes created an element of commonality. This was a play about real people in a real town surviving an actual event.

Playing numerous characters apiece, the actors were able to use costume, voice, and body to distinguish between their parts. As a narrator guided the audience, the true feelings of the townspeople were revealed. Some were supportive, some believed Matthew had it coming, some felt his lifestyle was wrong, others preferred to “live and let live”. With all of these reactions, we saw the raw emotion and brutal honesty of the residents. The audience was able to feel the sadness of the family, the horror of the crime, the anger, even the hatred shared by some characters. The raw honesty of the play brings the audience into the town of Laramie during those days of October in 1998. The interviews taken by members of the Tectonic Theatre, circle to before, and after the events. The audience was drawn into the tragedy. We hear from friends, professors at the University Wyoming, Pastors, waitresses, store owners, ranchers, even the girlfriends and parents of the accused. We heard from the bartender of the Fireside Lounge where Matthew was last seen. He described events that took place the night Matthew was murdered. Hearts ached for Aaron as he recalled what happened when he found Matthew. Mercy came from Mr. Shepard’s speech to Aaron McKinney. The emotions the actors and actresses represented were real. The cast did a remarkable job.

MacKenzie McCullum’s directing of The Laramie Project was beautiful. As the director, she helped bring the story of Matthew and his message to life. She was determined to stick to the truth and say it correctly. She deserved a huge round of applause. When the audience, left they were instilled with a new feeling of hope, love and acceptance. The director, cast and crew did a superb job.

On October 6, The Laramie Project opened at UMD in the Dudley Experimental Theatre, performed by the UMD’s Stage 2 group and directed by Mackenzie McCullum turned out to be a very successful open. The seats were filled, the audience was very energetic. Everyone one in that little room was having conversations on how excited they were to be at the opening of The Laramie Project. They were cheerful and happy to be there to learn and watch The Laramie Project come to life. Once the play was off and running everyone in that room had their attention on the actors. The director Mackenzie McCullum did a wonderful job at bringing The Laramie Project to life. It felt as if we were right there while everything was taking place, pretty much reliving the story. Mackenzie and her crew were able to bring this story to life, not just the story line but the emotions and feelings that could have been felt at that time. The performers had the audience literally sitting at the edge of their seats. The acting in this performance was flawless, with only about 6-9 actors and being able to bring close to about 20-30 characters to life is amazing. The actors did extremely well at making each character different and when they changed roles we could tell that they were someone different, whether it was the accent in the characters voice, change in clothes, change in expressions, we were able to see the change. The performers did so well at expressing the emotions of this story that they had over half the audience in tears by the end of the performance, it was amazing to see how that they were able to make that happen.
The play being about a hate crime against a homosexual college student in Laramie, Wyoming just trying to have a good time in a bar and being discriminated against by two other males for having a different sexual orientation, which led to the murder of the young college student named Matthew Shepard. Not only was it just murder but it was more a message to the homosexuals that they are not wanted in the city by the two young men’s actions. But along with hope and believe in goodness this story became a milestone to many homosexuals and heterosexuals that there was nothing wrong with being homosexual, and that being homosexual does not make you a bad person or even different from everyone else. Even though the world we live in today say that homosexuality is not normal or right this story proves that along with hope and effort justice will be served, and that no one deserves to be discriminated or hated against because their sexual orientation or just in general.
To sum it all up, this is a must see play for everyone and anyone. This performance was a great experience especially it being of such a great controversy. It was wonderful to see how this play actually played out and with such a creative director and actors it was able to happen.


Tears, joy, anger, and some good ol' H.O.P.E. were some of the most predominant emotions audience members left with after their viewing of the Laramie Project opening night. Thirteen years ago to the day of opening night, Matthew Shepard, a 21 year-old homosexual man from Laramie, Wyoming, was brutally murdered by two men. The main message that Director MacKenzie McCullum tried to portray through this performance was that there is always H.O.P.E. And she and her cast of eight did an outstanding job.

When Matthew, a student at the University of Wyoming, went into a bar for some drinks, he was met by who lured him into their truck. After leaving they began savagely beating him while driving him into the outskirts of town. These two men later began beating Matthew within an inch of his life, tied him to a fence, and left him there to die. He was discovered 18 hours later by a boy riding his bike, and brought to the hospital in critical condition. Matthew Shepard fought for his life until finally on day five his heart and soul gave in. Matthew's fight for his life and the story behind it made national headlines, and put Laramie, Wyoming on the map forever.

By the end of the play each actor had played roughly six to eight different characters. Each individual member portrayed their characters for each part by constantly changing costumes, voices, and even positioning on the stage, One can only begin to imagine the struggles and difficulties an actor can face trying to learn multiple lines, voices, and stage movements over and over for different characters. All the members of the cast gave each characters performance with such passion and dedication that it felt so real, like a viewer was sitting in that interview room with the real person. Throughout the entirety of the play, there was a narrator mediating the interviews, and providing audience members with play by plays of who was speaking when. Most towns people were uneducated in the beginning and thus were confused or neutral about the issue of the labeled "hate crime." However, as the play evolved, viewers got to intimately watch each person grow in their belief, and also their love for Matthew and what his fight stood for. The large diversity in people interviewed and portrayed in this performance added to the overall quality and splendor. Cast members played a range from friends and family of Matthew, normal towns folk, the bartender of the Fireside Lounge where Matthew was taken from, pastors, police officers and their families, doctors, and even the accused's family and girlfriends. The cast overall, did an outstanding job playing each individual character, and bringing all together in the end as a team to reinforce one simple message, H.O.P.E.

The set of the play was extremely simple, yet complimented the formalities of the performance. With platforms raised at different levels, chairs lined up to portray an interview room, and the buck fence in the back reminding viewers of the horrible image people in Laramie were left with after Matthew was found; a viewer really felt intimate with the cast in the sense they weren't separated by extravagant props. Upon entering the the theatre in the beginning, audience members were greeted by calm music to help create the mood of sadness and relief. Also, throughout the entire performance at certain periods, more music was played softly to help compliment the actors, and really drive home the overarching message. The lighting was kept extremely simple with warm dim white lights when needed, and a blue light cast over the accused as they were being questioned towards the end of the play. Again, these effects allowed for the most intimacy between the audience members, and the cast.

Director Mackenzie McCullum's rendition of The Laramie Project was so beautiful and moving, it was hard for someone not to leave the theatre with tears in their eyes, and hope in their hearts. She made it clear at the beginning that she wants to show the truth, and keep the message as close as possible while showing her own methods of getting the message out. This performance has been hands down one that was well worth the money. Everyone involved from the cast, director, producers, designers, and techs deserve the biggest round of applause and a standing ovation. The Laramie Project was extremely well done.

Captivation of many hearts took place in Stage 2 at the University of Minnesota Duluth during a production of The Laramie Project on Friday evening. Intense feelings drew the crowd in as eight amazing theater students portrayed over thirty different characters that were crucial to this story’s justification. With its simple set and great execution of lines and scenes this play was a force to be reckoned with. Director MacKenzie McCullum, another UMD student, should be proud that her image of this story was produced beautifully and powerfully.

In 1998, a young man named Matthew Sheppard was brutally beat and left for dead in the small American town of Laramie, Wyoming. The young man was recognized as a homosexual who was targeted for this life choice. During this event in history, more than two hundred interviews were conducted in this town with individuals that lived there and who were affected by this event. The actors who played each of these individuals during their interview process had to bring something different to the table when they each did their monologues. It wasn’t just remembering lines for them, but remembering Matthew and the emotions that these real people felt. The actors had to crawl inside themselves and act on their own emotions to this very real story and that’s what made the production of The Laramie Project intense and beautiful. To name a few, the students played people from Matthew’s life such as his father, best friend, teacher, cab driver, the bartender, the boy and cop who found him, and his classmates. Following a cast of thirty characters would seem to be impossible and daunting, but MacKenzie directed this play into an interesting direction as each cast member took turns narrating the names and descriptions of each character played. This aided the play to its perfection.

When the lights drew after act one and the intermission began, tears were dried and reality set into the audience as they had a chance to discuss amongst themselves how the play was already so great. People barely left their seats more than two minutes as they anticipated act two of this story. Act two began even more powerfully as the first and emotions ran high as even more suspected lines of interviews were given about how Matthew struggled for his life and the community came together in his effort with a few protestors along the way.

This play projected an agreed message of how hate can tear the world apart and how hope can bring it back together. Matthew’s life can never be replaced, but his story and this production educated a message filled with emotions that are crucial in the fight for equality. It’s safe to say that this production was a huge hit and deserves the best recognition. It was difficult to leave the show after it ended on Friday without being emotionally drained in the best possible way and having a real experience of what happened in Laramie, Wyoming in October of 1998.

The Stage 2 production of The Laramie Project was an unexpected surprise that captured the audience and carried them all the way to the end. The performance was set in a town in Laramie Wyoming where a young man by the name Matthew Shepard who was attending the University there was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered. As the play progresses the audience learns more and more about the kind of person Matthew was and the kind of city he lived in.
The plot of The Laramie Project was a brilliant concept. It consists of over 200 interviews of the people who were involved in the murder of Matthew Shepard. The first few scenes were the regular folks of the town talking about Laramie and the great town it is. It has a light air about it. But as the play progresses we learn about the dark tragedy that haunts the community. It quickly unfolds and becomes dark and at some points extremely sad. The playwright did an excellent job making the play develop into a very emotional experience where we learn about the people in the community. By the end of the play it felt like we actually knew the people involved on a person level.
The play had many characters in the community that were opinionated and had a lot to say about the incident. It posed a challenge for the few actors and actresses who had the responsibility of accurately portraying several characters a piece. Many of the characters had very different views, even opposing in some cases, and the performers had to get in and out of those characters in seconds. They accomplished this on Thursday night. At the end of some scenes the audience was so encapsulated by performance that no noise was made. Reflecting on what was just seen and anticipating what was to come left the audience speechless.
The director deserves a round of applause on her work. With what I imagine is a very limited budget she set the stage for a very real piece of art. A simple stage that could perform multiple scenes was exactly what the performance needed. The props consisted of a fence, some chairs, and very interchangeable costumes. But the thing that was the most interesting was the coordination of all the characters. Everything from stage entrances to costume changes was done flawlessly.
After the play ended the audience was left with an understanding of how one person can make a difference in the lives of many. Even now Matthew Shepard continues to teach us about the world we live in today. The goal of the production was to accurately portray an event in our history that has a major impact on how we view our society. It shows us whether we are an understanding society or intolerable of everyone. In most cases the actions of few affect many and changed their lives forever. By the end of this particular performance the audience could leave understanding precisely that. The fact that a small group was able to do that with such a small budget and limited resources tells us a lot. My hat is off to this excellent production.

The performance of The Laramie Project pulled together a plethora of messages, emotions, and opinions. As a retelling of the hate crime committed against a young homosexual man in the stereotypical small town U.S.A, this production was laced with multiple sensations. The cast was able to literally bring the audience to its feet and drop them to their knees in sorrow. Instance after instance of pure heartfelt emotion continually rained down upon the members of the crowd. There was uniformity felt by all towards the captivation from the driving, pulsating, passion consequently brought on by the deliverance of script. Likewise, the pendulum swung the other way and brought many people passed the brink of sorrow and induced sniffling and crying for most of the second half as the gruesome reality behind the story came to light.
Mackenzie Mcullum, the director, deserves a Medal of Honor for leading such an emotionally charged topic to the forefront of the public eye. She had every right to be apprehensive; this was a very sensitive issue with a great deal of bias already working against it. However, she stood by her cast and helped lead them down the path to an amazing performance. Homosexuality is not a new issue by any means, but Mcullum was able to direct her cast into portraying a hopeful aura around the performance. Everyone knew and expected the outcome, however, it did not deter from the yearning for Mathew Sheppard’s well-being and recovery.
The casting was dead on. Every actor and actress played numerous parts and as an audience member you can completely tell the difference in characters and scenes that they were in. To be able to prepare for one part is trying enough. The performers on that stage were asked a great deal to be able to perform 7 or 8 parts completely thru, many of which were instantly recognizable and believable. On top of that, a handful were still able to reach down deep and pull out performances that were so enticing and powerful that they literally drew the audience to the edge of their seats.
Now, that’s not without saying that there wasn’t a scene or two that needed some fixing. Specifically, there was one or two scenes that were built up at the peaks of the mountains that were very climatic that were interrupted by actors sneaking into the background of the stage and forcing your attention away from the main point of interest. Perhaps they could reexamine some techniques and timing in order to give those climatic scenes the respect and time they deserve to linger and filter into our hearts and heads completely unobstructed.
As far as set design goes, they did a wonderful job utilizing the space and budget given to them to be able to construct an unpretentious set to say the least. Multiple scenes were shown on multiple different platforms. Also, the costume design was exactly what you would expect from a play with a $500 budget; very modest and straightforward. There were a few technical sound issues that became slightly glaring issues in an otherwise very pure and simple sounding play.
Afterwards, there was a very somber , veiled feeling that was being picked up off the crowd. As sad and downtrodden as the play led the audience to feel, the hopefulness behind the issue was irresistible. This can be preventable. This can be educated and felt around the world so we no longer have to feel the remorse over such a horrific tragedy. The performance symbiotically pulled out of Mathew’s death sprouted a sign of hope and light at the end of the tunnel for society.

The play put on by UMD Stage 2 Theatre group was called “The Laramie Project.” This story was composed of many interviews done in a small town called Laramie in Wyoming, and compiled together to form a play of sorts. The interviews were done on the murder of a College Student named Matthew Shepherd who was a homosexual and murdered because of it. All different sorts of opinions were put into the play and at times contrasted each other to the point of painfulness. The cast and crew did an awesome job of making the play mean so much more than the props and costumes, especially because they do not have a very large budget to work with in the first place.

The cast did a terrific job of playing so many characters. The versatility that each of them showed was laudable. They all played, at the least, five characters and had to be able to switch from, in one actors case, crying because he had lost one of his good friends, and then only a bit later being angered by an attorney asking him questions about why he killed the homosexual boy. They did a wonderful job of moving the audience to all of the emotions that they themselves seemed to truly be experiencing on stage. Tears ran down the face of an actor whose character was experiencing anguish many times, which only helped to move the audience to really experience the same emotions as they seemed to be feeling.

One truly magical aspect of the play was that the set was composed of three platforms, a section of fence, and three chairs. That was it. The director tried, and succeeded in pulling the audience away from the props that are used in plays and into the emotional portions, since “The Laramie Project” is most definitely a tragic story and needs to be looked at through the eyes of emotion.

Although the emotional appeal was most definitely heartwarming and moving as well, there could have been some changes. The one that was most evident was the proximity with which the audience was in in relation to the actors. On more than one occasion, if seated in the front left of the theatre, lights would have been shining in the eyes of the patron sitting there. Also, one scene literally took place a foot and a half from the first row of seats in that same position, making the patron feel potentially uncomfortable, and taking them out of the play experience.

For the most part, the message of hope and honesty was transferred wonderfully by the cast and director. Leaving, at the end of the play, a sense of accomplishment, even though nothing had truly changed, the least that could have been done was that the story was being told for Matthew, and it let the feeling of hope and forgiveness leave with the audience who wondered…”What if?” What if Matthews father had let one of the murderers die, what if Matthew had never gone into that bar that night? What if the bartender hadn’t looked away for just a minute? What if someone had gone on that walking trail where Matthew was tied to the buckthorn fence just a few hours earlier? What if.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Harvey published on October 7, 2011 12:29 PM.

Ladies Man - Duluth Playhouse was the previous entry in this blog.

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