First show of fall theater season provides a challenge for MSUM actors, tells a story that hits close to home

Kayla Burchatz and Billy Schnase work on lines along fellow cast members during rehearsal for “The Laramie Project.” Photo by Alecs Peters
Kayla Burchatz and Billy Schnase work on lines along fellow cast members during rehearsal for “The Laramie Project.”
Photo by Alecs Peters

Every day, people are ridiculed for their differences. These differences can be found in the color of one’s skin, the way someone talks, the social status of a person or, of course, a person’s sexuality.

This fall, the MSUM theatre department will be performing a piece entitled, “The Laramie Project,” which addresses this issue in a unique way.

“The Laramie Project” tells the true story of the community of Laramie, Wyo., after the tragic death of a young man, Matthew Shepard, who was murdered because of his sexuality.

The play was constructed based on interviews from actual citizens of Laramie in the weeks following Shepard’s death. It is for this reason that the play is unique.

Patrick Carriere, theatre department faculty member and director of “The Laramie Project,” believes that while the subject matter is quite intense, the piece is important to see.

“It is about uncovering and revealing the attitudes, opinions and assumptions that people throughout communities have around issues of sexuality and identity,” Carriere said. “I think it is very important to see how people react to this situation because it reveals a lot about it.”

Michael Johnson, a senior majoring in  theatre, is cast in the show and agrees that it is an important piece for anyone to see.

“The show focuses on telling a story. It doesn’t focus on drubbing a message over your head, which I think makes it that much more powerful,” he said.

“The Laramie Project” not only has intense subject matter, but it also is a challenge for the actors involved.

“One of the great challenges of the show is that people have to embody real living people – not people who have lived – people who are living right now,” Johnson said. “As an actor you have to change from character to character and have the audience recognize that change without making it a cartoon.”

Carriere agrees that the show is not easy.

“There is a responsibility with the subject matter,” Carriere said. “There are some very intense moments in the play. Also, there are some people who are playing things and attitudes and ideas that are probably different than what they think as an individual.”

As a show emboding an event that occurred within the lifetimes of current MSUM students, both Johnson and Carriere believe that seeing “The Laramie Project” will prove beneficial for all.

This powerful and important piece of theatre will open at the Gaege Stage on Oct. 2.


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