“The Laramie Project” provides opportunities for theater students


“The Laramie Project” was a Marshall University School of Theatre project which told the story of Matthew Shepard, a gay man who was murdered in Laramie, Wyo.

Being a stage manager for a production from the Marshall University School of Theatre means working as a middleman between the actors, crew members and the director, in and out of rehearsal. Kendra Williams did all of that as the stage manager of “The Laramie Project” while in her first year in college.

“I am the conduit of information, that’s what everyone called me,” Williams said. “If the director has questions or concerns for the actors, or the actors had questions for the director, or the design team needed something from someone else, everything had to go through me.”

Williams, who had originally auditioned to be one of the 10 actors in the play, said that when she didn’t get cast, she asked if she could act as an assistant to the stage manager because freshman are not usually allowed to be a stage manager. 

Williams said that once she got back from Christmas break, she found out she would be stage managing her first show.

“Normally you have to be assistant stage manager three times before you are allowed to stage manage on your own,” Williams said. “They also don’t usually allow freshmen to even assistant stage manage because the want you to have taken the two technical classes and I had only been through one.”

With the show “The Laramie Project,” each of the 10 actors on stage play multiple different characters through the two acts, with one actor playing up to seven characters in the show.

“Part of my job was helping Fulton (Burns, director) keep track of who was playing who and also having an opinion on if the characters felt like real people when being portrayed,” Williams said. 

During the performances this past week, Williams job was something she called “calling the show.”

“Every single light que or sound que or video que the audience saw, I was the one saying ‘Okay, it’s time for this to happen now,’” Williams said.

Williams said it was not always her plan to be in the world of theater, and she originally came to Marshall to double major in biology and chemistry, along with a minor in physics. Her plan was to become an ophthalmologist, but she said something in her head made her change that plan.

“Why do I want this science degree? I was telling myself it was to help people, but I really was just thinking about the money,” Williams said. “I decided that wasn’t a good way to live.”

When she made the switch to theater, Williams said it was because she wanted to still help people, enjoy her career and be challenged. 

“Theater? Perfect,” Williams said.

Williams says that Marshall Program in particular does a great job of giving its students a well-rounded experience.

“[The program] is very all-encompassing, you’re not just learning how to act,” she said. “You are also learning basic sewing skills in costuming. You are learning wood shop and basic electricity in shop class. I feel like when you leave the theater department, even if you don’t stick in the line of theater, you have a lot more skills then people actually think are here.”

Emily Hayslett can be contacted at [email protected]