THE LARAMIE PROJECT
by Moises Kaufman
The Footlight Players
Charleston, South Carolina
Heart-rending drama views gay prejudice
BY DOTTIE ASHLEY
Post & Courier Reviewer 10/05/01
Technically innovative, demanding and risk-taking all apply to the drama The Laramie Project, which opened Thursday at the Footlight Players Theatre. The main message in this tragic story is that, try as we might, there is no way society can categorize homosexuals. As Mark Wallace, who plays a Laramie limo driver, says of the tough, gay guys he knows, “If you mess with a Wyoming queer, he will kick you in the (rear).”
The play about the death of the gay college student Matthew Shepard, who was beaten in Laramie, Wyo., and left to die tied to a fence post in 1998, probably makes even the most anti-gay zealot cringe. However, where playwright Moises Kaufman succeeds best is in depicting the gray areas showing what the vast majority believe about gays, but don’t want to admit.
The script also depicted the horde of invading reporters who had already made up their minds that: “It’s tough being gay in cowboy country.”
Steve Lepre did a terrific job directing the 14 diverse actors playing 50 citizens of Laramie who vent their feelings. In the conversations, the phrase “live and let live,” crops up often. But there is only one mention of “acceptance,” in regard to homosexuals.
Only a few of the citizens were one-dimensional, notably a Bible-thumping, anti-gay minister. An absolute standout in the cast was Jeff Jordan as the bartender who served Shepard before he left with his two murderers, who had led him to believe they were gay. Gene Glave was excellent as the emergency room nurse and Tim Corey superb as the overly cautious president of the University of Wyoming. Extremely plausible as the matter-of-fact policewoman was Paulette Todd.
Perhaps those who truly should be taken to see this heart-rending drama are children who begin torturing their classmates who seem “different” when they are only in the fifth or sixth grade. Only when the young start seeing the world in a more accepting way will the torture ever really cease.
Rabbi Robert A. Seigel - Charleston, South Carolina
October 18, 2001
Jennet Robinson Alterman, President
The Footlight Players
20 Queen Street
Charleston, South Carolina 29401
Dear Ms. Alterman:
Many years ago, when I was a child, I was a member of the Footlight Players, studied for several years under Emmett Robinson and performed in numerous plays. The Workshop building and everything it embodied was the center of my childhood and teenage universe.
Now, almost 50 years later, I am retired and have returned to Charleston. One of the very first things I did upon my return was to once again become a season subscriber to the Footlight Players. Forever Plaid assured me that the high quality of productions was even better than it had been many years ago.
Tonight my wife and I attended The Laramie Project. It was one of the most moving theatrical experiences we have encountered. The acting, the choreography, the directing were superb. It was also timely given the recent horrific hate inspired terrorist attacks against our nation.
As I sat through the performance, I kept thinking that it must have taken a great deal of courage to select this play. As wonderful as Charleston is, it is not known for progressive thought. Testimony of this was the number of people around us who did not return for the second act. There are still many who cannot deal with the content of this play. I was truly impressed that the Footlighters had made this bold decision, and I felt a deep sense of pride in this institution that had so deeply molded me as a child.
Most certainly there will be some who will criticize the decision to perform The Laramie Project. Please be assured that there are others who applaud the choice of this play as well as the excellence of its execution.
Robert A. Seigel
Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim