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Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Providence Players The Laramie Project

By • Apr 13th, 2010 • Category: Reviews
The Laramie Project
Providence Players
James Lee Community Center Theater, Falls Church, VA
Through April 17th
2:30 with one intermission
$15/$12 Seniors and Students
Reviewed April 8th, 2010

Providence Players of Fairfax’s current production, The Laramie Project – A journey to the past of the way we were. And like many embarrassments of our culture, it’s a journey we all need to remember and in the remembering make sure it doesn’t happen again. Our past directs a lot of our actions of our future. We all must give respect to those who bring our past, frequent and not so frequent, to our present consciousness. Lest we forget and make the same errors over again.

Sure not all of us, with our differing communities across this vast country and their differing customs and beliefs, are going to behave in the same way to the same set of circumstances. But when a heinous hate crime strikes a community, it strikes everyone within that community. As a community is struck so the hate crime will strike all communities related to it. In this country we are all related in some manner or form and therefore, are struck with the ramifications of that crime. So let us not forget what happened in Laramie, Wyoming in 1998-1999 to a young man named Matthew Shepard. Let us all vow to never allow this to happen to anyone in our community, thus in all communities in our country or in the world. And as the Director of The Laramie Project, Tina Thronson states, “No one deserves what happened to Matthew Shepard.”

This play is a play unlike the form we are all used to. There’s no hero or heroine. (Some may argue, with agreement that Matthew Shepard is the hero in this piece) No classical form or set, but a backdrop with actual slides of Laramie itself. In fact, 25 actors combine to play some 74 characters. A huge undertaking and one in which the authors, Moisés Kaufman and the Members of Tectonic Theatre Project put together for this play/project.

With a cast of 25, it’s next to impossible for me to write about all the actors’ performances. For the most part, this ensemble wasn’t about acting performances as much as storytelling. The actors (Janet Bartelmay, Tim Brown, Gerry Connolly, Smitty Connolly, Zurii Conroy, John Coscia,, Mike Dazé, Christian D. Faulkner, Courtney Ferguson, Laura Fischer, Mario Font, Barbara Gertzog, Jimmy Gertzog, Leta Hall, Susan Kaplan, Beckie McNair, Ari Post, Dylan Rzepka, David Schwartz, Gail Seavey, Robbie Snow, Richard Vann, Beth Whitehead, Jacinta Williams, Sue Winfield) told this story very well.

I am thankful for this production, for its message and for remembering that time period of our countries past. I am proud we have moved so far from this kind of hate crime. No, we are not free from it, but we are all better for these remembrances of Laramie, Wyoming and should all say a prayer for the young man who paid for this lesson with his life.

A job well done by the entire cast of this moving piece!

Director’s Note

This play was created by Moises Kaufman and a team of writers from Tectonic Theatre Project – a group from New York City. The style is deliberately presentational – actors address the audience and “play” more than one charcter. It tells the story of their trips to interview the townspeople of Laramie, Wyoming in the aftermath of the murder of a young, gay college student. Clearly fish out of water – these actors and writers from the big city were unsure how they would be treated in a town where a horrible act took place. However, as a theater company which presented plays focusing on gay themes, this project was very personal to them. No one deserves what happened to Matthew Shepherd.

I was interested in staging this piece for reasons that were very personal to me. I lived in Laramie for 16 years. My family was part of the university community. I worked as an R.N. at Ivinson Memorial Hospital, where my son was born. I knew both Cantway and Sgt. Hing’s mother, another nurse. My daughter was born at PoudreValley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado. My children were raised in this “gem city on the high plains” – and we left with some regret in 1996.

I love my time in Laramie – because I loved the people I met and worked with. We all persevered in spite of the elements. The temperature regularly dropped 20-30 degrees in a single day. We were challenged by a growing season which seemed to last for only a few weeks (the joke was, “I hope summer comes on a weekend this year”). And no picnic was complete without half the paper plates blowing away in the ever present Wyoming wind. We were also challenged by the isolation that these wide open spaces imposed on us. Things and people were often slow to change – and there was certainly a suspicion of outsiders.

So here comes Matthew Shepherd – into this isolated, macho western culture – and his life and death shook this community to its core. This play is not only about the different perspectives on the murder, ranging from a quaisi –”justifiable” act with Matthew as the aggressor (gay panic), to a robbery gone wrong, to a hate crime in which the perpetrators preyed on the victim because he was gay. The play is also about how a community dealt with the influx of media and harsh assessment of its people and their way of life – not only by outsiders but by the townspeople themselves.

No one deserves what happened to Matthew Shepherd.

Cast

  • Baptist Minister’s Wife, Rulon Stacy, Arraignment Judge: Janet Bartelmay
  • Andy Paris, Jon Peacock: Tim Brown
  • Arraignment Judge (alternating with Janet Bartelmay): Gerry Connolly
  • Eileen Engen, Stephen Mead Johnson, Mormon Home Teacher: Smitty Connolly
  • Trish Steger, Zubaida Ula, E-mail Writer, Newsperson 2: Zurii Conroy
  • Sgt. Hing, Doc O’Conor, Dr. Cantway, Rev. Fred Phelps, Dennis Shepherd: John Coscia
  • Father Roger, Rob DeBree, Bill McKinney: Mike Daze
  • Moises Kaufman, Greg Pieerotti, Priest, Jonas Slonaker: Christian D. Faulkner
  • Barbara Pitts, Tiffany Edwards, Sherry Johnson, Trial Judge: Courtney Ferguson
  • April Silva, Jen, Newsperson, Kristin Price, Aaron Keifels: Laura Fischer
  • Stephen Belber, Kerry Drake, Harry Woods: Mario Font
  • Narrator: Barbara Gertzog
  • Matt Galloway, Newsperson 4, Bailiff: Jimmy Gertzog
  • Reggie Fluty: Leta Hall
  • Rebecca Hiliker, Jeffrey Lockwood: Susan Kaplan
  • Debbie (waitress) Sherry Aanenson, Newsperson: Beckie McNair
  • Jedidiah Schultz, Phil Labrie, Newsperson 1, Russell Henderson: Ari Post
  • Aaron McKinney, Newsperson 3, Shadow: Dylan Rzepka
  • Philip Dubois, Gil Engen, Rev. Doug Laws, Matt Mickelson: David Schwartz
  • Amanda Gronich, Leiggh Fondakowski, Anonymous, Murdock Cooper, Lucy Thompson: Gail Seavey
  • Alison Mears, Conrad Miller, Foreperson: Robbie Snow
  • Baptist Minister, Gov. Geringer: Richard Vann
  • Marge Murray, Zackie Salmon: Beth Whitehead
  • Romaine Patterson, Shannon: Jacinta Williams
  • Catherine Connolly, Cal Rerucha: Sue Winfield

Crew

  • Director: Tina Thronson
  • Producers: Sue Winfield, Beckie McNair
  • Technical Director: Jimmy Gertzog
  • Technical Crew: Sarah Mourningham, Jessica Pipes, Jason Damaso, Chip Gertzog
  • Stage Manager: Mike Mattheisen
  • Set Design and Construction: John Coscia
  • Set Construction Crew: Tim Brown, Tom Coscia, Patrick David, Jason Damaso, Laura Fischer, Mario Font, Joe Garguilo, Chip Gertzog, jimmy Gertzog, Leta Hall, Kevin Harnisch, Susan Kaplan, Beckie McNair, Mike Matthiesen, David Schwartz, Gail Seavey, Robbie Snow, Tina Thronson, Richard Vann, David Whitehead, Jacinta Williams, Sue Winfield
  • Set Decoration and Properties: Susan Kaplan
  • Costumes and Hair Design: Robbie Snow
  • Hair and Makeup Design: Beth Harrison
  • House Management: Ann and Matt Ames
  • Playbill: Ellen Burns
  • Playbill Advertising: Jayne Victor
  • Photographer: Chip Gertzog
  • Publicity: Chip Gertzog

Disclaimer: Providence Players provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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has been involved in theatre for over 40 years in the local Washington DC Metro area as well as NYC and London England. Mark has performed at the Dramatist Guild Theatre on Broadway, at The Dorothy Strelsin Theatre Off-Broadway. His credits include work in many local theatres as well: The Folger Theatre Group, Arena Stage, New Playwrights Theatre, 7th Street Players, The Keegan Theatre, The American Century Theatre, The Journeyman Theatre, ASTA Theatre, The Hayloft Dinner Theatre (Associate Producer), The Lazy Susan Theatre, Discovery Channels, “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein” (Frankenstein) with Donald Sutherland. London, England credits include work at: The Duke of York Theatre, Roundhouse Theatre, The Questors Theatre, The British Embassy Players. Mark is a graduate of The Drama Studio, London, England. Mark is also a narrator of audio books for Gildan Audio: “True North”, by Bill George; “Never Give Up”, by Tedy Bruschi and “Five Minds for the Future”, by Howard Gardner among them. Mark currently teaches Advanced Acting at The Little Theatre of Alexandria and still performs locally in many theatres.

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