WHHS Theatre Workshop to perform “The Laramie Project”
WHHS Theatre Workshop to perform “The Laramie Project”
Posted on 11/06/2014
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WEST HAVEN, Nov. 3, 2014 — The West Haven High School Theatre Workshop will be presenting “The Laramie Project” in the WHHS auditorium Nov. 21-22 at 7:30 PM, but this year’s play choice isn’t just about the performance.

It’s also about spreading a positive message of acceptance and equality, co-directors Margi and T. Sean Maher say.

The piece focuses on the aftermath of a well-known tragedy in the town of Laramie, Wyoming. In 1998, a young gay college student named Matthew Shepard was tied to a fence in Laramie, beaten, and left to die. “The Laramie Project” focuses not on the death, but on what happened next, and is based on an extensive amount of interviews with Laramie residents. It was written by Moises Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project.

“It’s about the town and the horrific effect this had on it,” Margi Maher said. “No one plays Matthew because it’s all about what happens afterward, with the media, the people living in town, how the image of Laramie changed and how differently people perceived the town and its residents.”

“The play presents the situation as visits to many different conversations,” T. Sean Maher added.

The Mahers say it’s the most powerful play they’ve put on at WHHS with the Theatre Workshop and that while the topic is far more serious and emotional than other recent plays, the student-actors have proven they are ready to take on such a production.

“I generally lean toward comedy and fun, but we have a group that’s talented enough to handle this,” Margi Maher said. “A couple of students even chose to do monologues from ‘The Laramie Project’ in my acting class even before we chose it.”

Because the play is of such a sensitive nature, the Theatre Workshop group felt it was important to educate others about its message and create their own advocacy movement.

Theatre Workshop members have chosen to use the idea of the national “NOH8” Campaign, which promotes human, gender and marriage equality, and have taken a photo using NOH8’s signature photo style: Students in the picture have a piece of duct tape over their mouths with “NOH8” painted on their cheeks, representing voices being silenced by legislation that doesn’t favor human, gender or marriage equality. The photo will be next to promotional posters for “The Laramie Project” around school and in town.

They’re also selling magnets with their own NOH8 logo and a silhouette of a red bird that is being used in the Theatre Workshop’s logo for “The Laramie Project.” A portion of these proceeds will go to the national NOH8 Campaign. 

“The No H8 Campaign wasn’t around when Matthew Shepard was killed, but the message is the same, and we’re trying to fight against the hatred. We’ve sort of adopted that idea for this play and we hope the message gets out there,” T. Sean Maher explained.

Play publicity is noting that there are mature themes and strong language in the performance. The Mahers opted to keep such aspects in the performance because “it has to be real,” T. Sean Maher said.  They understand some people may question the play choice.

“We talked to the kids about how some might question the shows subject matter,” T. Sean Maher said. “It’s a play about man’s inhumanity and humanity.  It’s not just about the hate.”

The cast is continuing to rehearse over the next few weeks, with 15 students playing around 60 different roles. Students are doing their own research, looking up interviews with Laramie residents and paying close attention to their voices and movements to try and match them as close as possible. 

Tickets will go on sale soon at a cost of $8 in advance or $10 at the door. High school and college student tickets are $5 with an ID at the door only.