Stetson Theatre Arts Combats Homophobia in ‘The Laramie Project’

Four different characters offer four different perspectives on the same event in “The Laramie Project,” presented by Stetson Theatre Arts, Nov 21-24. From left to right (Standing): Aliyah Bendix (Alison Mears) and Kiara Santiago (Romaine Patterson)
From left to right (Seated): Javell Francis (Detective Rob Debree) and Joshua Camden (Doc O’Connor) Photo/And You Films

Stetson Theatre Arts presents Moisés Kaufman’s searing drama “The Laramie Project,” directed by Julie Schmitt, PhD, Creative Arts Department chair and director and associate professor of theatre arts at Stetson University. The play is a theatrical examination of a city’s response to a brutal murder, and will run from Nov. 21-24 at Stetson University’s Second Stage Theatre, located at the Museum of Art – DeLand.

In October 1998, Matthew Shepard, a student at the University of Wyoming, was kidnapped, severely beaten and left tied to a prairie fence. Shepard was the target of a vicious assault because he was gay and he died days later as a result of his injuries.

Kaufman and fellow members of the Tectonic Theater Project conducted more than 200 interviews with residents of Laramie, Wyoming. The play is comprised of those first-hand accounts collected by the theatre company.

Julia Schmitt

“The play’s rehearsal and design process have been really unique and rewarding,” said Schmitt. “Since a number of actors are playing well over eight parts, I have asked them to think of their different characters in relation to a long list of archetypal characters, and we’re working on finding different ways to embody those archetypes through physical and vocal characterization. It’s a challenge, but the students are up for it, and it’s clear that this play means a lot to them.”

 “The Laramie Project” showcases a tragedy that is disturbingly prevalent today.

“Even though it has been more than 20 years since the death of Matthew Shepard, there are many moments in the play that really resonate with me and with fellow cast members,” said Schmitt. “I feel that discussions about hate, empathy and compassion will always be relevant, and the play certainly feels as though it is of this time.”

Experience “The Laramie Project,”a breathtaking collage that explores the depths to which humanity can sink and the heights of compassion of which we are capable.

With only a single costume piece available to them, student performers begin the process of becoming a resident of Laramie, Wyoming, in “The Laramie Project.” From left to right (Standing): Aliyah Bendix (Alison Mears) and Kiara Santiago (Romaine Patterson) From left to right (Seated): Javell Francis (Detective Rob Debree) and Joshua Camden (Doc O’Connor) 
Photo credit: Photo/And You Films.

If You Go:

Production alert: The play contains mature subject matter and language and may not be suitable for all ages.

Ensemble cast: Shay Figueroa (Narrator); Javell Francis (Detective Rob Debree); Reed Barkowitz (Marge Murray); Aliyah Bendix (Alison Mears); Noah Belachew (Matt Galloway); Kiara Santiago (Romaine Patterson); Abiola Adebanjo (Officer Reggie Fluty); Joshua Dennis (Phillip Dubois); Matthew Heid (Dennis Shepard); Joshua Camden (Doc O’Connor); Hope Willberger (Aaron Kreifels); and Logan Castaneda (Andrew Gomez).

Where: Second Stage Theatre at the Museum of Art – DeLand, 600 N. Woodland Blvd., DeLand (adjacent to the DeLand campus)

When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21, Friday, Nov. 22 and Saturday, Nov. 23 and 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24

Admission: $12 adults, $10 seniors and non-Stetson students (including area schools and colleges), Stetson faculty, staff and students receive free admission with a valid ID.

Parking: Free

Box office, reservations and more information: 386-822-8700

Tickets will be available at the door and reserved tickets must be picked up 30 minutes prior to the start of the performance. The box office will be open one hour prior to curtain.

-Sandra Carr