“The Laramie Project” unites School of Theatre to teach community about compassion

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"The Laramie Project" will be showing at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 18-22 with a matinee performance at 2 p.m. Feb 22.

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Every discipline in Marshall University’s School of Theatre comes together to create their productions, with the latest being “The Laramie Project,” opening this week. 

“The Laramie Project,” a play which debuted in 2000 and was written by Moisés Kaufman, is about the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a homosexual man who attended the University of Wyoming. The play centers around the reaction of the community of Laramie, Wyoming to Shepard’s death. 

“The Laramie Project” will be showing at 7:30 p.m. from Tuesday, Feb. 18-22 in the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center, as well as a matinee performance at 2 p.m. Feb. 22. 

Fulton Burns, the director of Marshall’s production of “The Laramie Project,” said the individuals that most audience members take into account during a production are the actors on stage, but behind the scenes the talents of others are constantly coming together. Burns said each production takes multiple people to ensure the lighting, costumes and props are correct on stage, while others work on advertising the production. 

“It genuinely takes a village to make a production like this go on,” Burns said. “If you look and see 10 people on stage, there is more than likely at least seven to eight additional people for every one person on stage, each making sure that the show runs smoothly.”

Burns said he was working with Kaufman at the time in which the playwright was conducting interviews and research for “The Laramie Project” back in 1999. Burns said the additional information he received from Kaufman has helped him while directing this production.

“Ultimately, it’s a play about compassion,” Burns said. “Where we have it, where we need it and where it’s gained.”

Rehearsals for the show started before Christmas with read throughs and have been running for more than five weeks. When choosing the 10 onstage performers, Burns said it was not only important that actors could portray the thematic elements in “The Laramie Project,” but also understand the social and political importance of the subject matter.

“The events that happened in Laramie were real, but what we are presenting is not real,” Burns said. “However, we still have to respect the ideas and perspective that were given by these real human beings.”

Tickets can be purchased at the Joan C. Edwards box office from noon to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday. Full-time and part-time students’ tickets are free. Tickets for adults are $21.40, for children they are $7.00 and for those 60 years of age or older they are $16.05. More ticket information can be found at the box office.

Emily Hayslett can be contacted at [email protected]