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UMW drama presents 'The Laramie Project'

UMW News Bureau

The University of Montana Western Drama Club will be performing “The Laramie Project” in the Student Union Building (SUB) lounge from March. 24 through March 28, 2011. By Kaitlin Ens fence bw koThe University of Montana Western Drama Club will be performing “The Laramie Project” in the Student Union Building (SUB) lounge from March. 24 through March 28, 2011. “The Laramie Project” is based on the murder of Matthew Shepard, who was beaten, tied to a fence and left to die outside of Laramie, Wyo. on Oct. 6, 1998. Shepard later died from severe head injuries at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colo. on October 12. Shepard was gay, and witnesses at the trial said he was targeted because of his sexual orientation. Following this tragic event the Tectonic Theater Project visited Laramie and conducted approximately 200 interviews, which included the parents of Shepard and Shepard’s murderers. The resulting play takes its lines directly from those interviews. The Montana Western Gargoyles, as the Drama Club was named in 1983, chose this play for many reasons. At the core of their decision was the desire to tell the tragic story to a captive audience. Because of the ongoing renovation of their normal venue, the Beier Auditorium, and the important message of the play, the Drama Club decided to choose a venue that would easily reach the student body. “Location partially influenced our play selection,” Montana Western fine arts professor and play director Larry Brazill stated. “This is a play that has a very serious message. The SUB is a high-traffic area that every kind of student goes through. It is a hub for student life.” Brazill, who has been at Montana Western for nine years, nearly did the same play five years ago with the Gargoyles. The production never panned out, but the drama group felt up to the challenge this year. “It’s a bit of a daring play,” Brazill explained. “It’s a docu-drama. The thing that’s beautiful is it tells every side.” This year marks a first at Montana Western for Brazill, who will be part of the play’s cast. Brazill is typically on the directing side of Montana Western’s plays and said he appreciated the change. “You need to have an appreciation for presenting,” he explained. The student cast includes six men and five women, all of whom are playing seven to eight characters. Brazill said this presents very challenging performances to deliver for the actors involved. “The clothing changes very little so the decorum and posture of the actors have to be dramatically different,” Brazill stated. “The other thing that creates a challenge is the range of emotions is so large and gripping it occupies the entire length of the play for the actors. It is a very intense emotional play.” The Gargoyles have taken the play’s challenges in stride and joined forces with the Art Club and the LAMBDA Alliance. The Art Club is presenting a showing of work relating to the Matthew Shepard story as well as aiding in the background scenery for the play. The LAMBDA Alliance is organizing a fundraiser through Broadway Cares, a New York-based charity. The Alliance will be receiving Broadway memorabilia to use for a silent auction at the play performances. The proceeds will return to New York and then be funneled back to a Montana-based charity to be used as needed. Brazill hopes the different venue as well as the artistic presentation by the Art Club and silent auction by LAMBDA Alliance will aid in people stopping by to watch. “This is a play people often make assumptions about,” Brazill added. “Come see it first, then decide.” Despite the consuming nature of the play, Brazill is looking forward to the performances. “It’s a play that tries to honor the truth,” Brazill reflected. “That is art’s job and we try to get it right however we can.” The Gargoyles, the Art Club, and LAMBDA Alliance will present four performances of “The Laramie Project” in the Student Union Building (SUB) Lounge from Thursday, March 24 through Monday, March 28, 2011. All performances begin at 7:33 p.m. Tickets will be available at the door and are $5 for students and $10 for adults.