By Janel Sullivan, Contributing Writer
It ’s that time of year again, when G. Ray Bodley High School’s Quirk’s Players present their fall play. This year’s selection is “The Laramie Project”, written by Moises Kaufman, which represents the aftermath of the brutal 1998 murder of Matthew Shepherd in Laramie, Wyoming. Shepherd’s death brought the phrase “hate crime” into the American vernacular and called attention to the fact that there were very few hate crime laws. The two men who tied him to a post and beat him to death are serving life sentences in prison.
Bodley is one of the rare high schools to present this play. It is more widely performed on college campuses with adult casts.
Senior Mikaela Houck and junior Brad Crofoot are performing in the play this weekend. Both students have appeared in Quirk’s Players productions before. They love being part of the group and are excited to have roles in the upcoming production.
Crofoot said he felt honored to be part of “The Laramie Project”, but nervous at the same time because they are playing actual people. The text of the play is drawn straight from interviews Kaufman conducted with residents of Laramie. Houck thinks the play brings up important issues because “no matter who you are, it shows how strong hate is and it turns a whole town upside down.” She also noted that people don’t think about what they say sometimes and how that can hurt others.
The original cast of “The Laramie Project” consisted of only eight actors playing sixty characters. This production has a larger ensemble of actors, but students will still play several roles. Houck, for example, is playing three characters—one of which is a Muslim woman. “It’s interesting playing someone so different from me,” she said. She even did research on the culture to make sure her costume was authentic and accurate.
The performance of this play could be considered even more important now that the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) passed in New York State over the summer. According to the New York State Education Department, DASA “…seeks to provide the State’s public elementary and secondary school students with a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying on school property, a school bus and/or at a school function.” Schools will also be responsible for collecting and reporting any information about instances of bullying or harassment. Even though the fall play at GRB was chosen last spring, the themes still line up perfectly. Crofoot and Houck hope that people will take away the message of the play and learn from it.
Both Crofoot and Houck encourage people attending the play to come with an open mind. Even though Matthew Shepherd was a victim of homophobia, the play is about so much more than gay and lesbian issues. “Despite what most people think,” said Houck, “it’s not a pro-gay play, it’s an anti-hate play.” The play is about how people treat each other and get along despite differences in religion, ethnicity, or sexuality. “No one deserves to be killed,” said Crofoot. “[there’s] no reason to hate a lifestyle and kill over it.” English teacher and assistant director Rob Lescarbeau said Laramie could represent any town with a “stuff like this doesn’t happen here” mentality.
Lescarbeau performed in “The Laramie Project” several years ago with music director Thomas Nami. He still remembers the impact performing in the play had on him and wishes the same for his students. “From an educational standpoint, they’ll never get this experience again. It’ll affect them for life.”
Quirk’s Players will present “The Laramie Project” on October 26th and 27th at 7:30pm at G. Ray Bodley High School. Tickets will be $8 for adults and $7 for seniors and children under 12.