HARVARD COLLEGE

The Laramie Project
By Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Project

Jason Wong, Director Hessel Yntema, Producer Pete Kulalert, Assistant Director and Production Advisor Truc Doan, Stage Manager Jan Luksic, Set Designer Lymaira Reyes, Assistant Set Designer Paul Sawyier, Lighting Designer Sonya Mollinger, House Manager and Assistant Lighting Designer Moonlit Wang, Costume Designer Samuel Stuntz, Sound Director Karla Reyes, Support Staff Grace Laubaucher, Set Advisor

This document contains an updated staff list (Page 1) and artistic statements from most of the staff (Pages 2 through 8). 5/5/2008

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Jason Wong, Director: Production Summary On the night of October 6th, 1998, Matthew Shepard was forcefully taken to an area outside of Laramie, Wyoming, tied to a fence, brutally beaten, and left to die. Matthew passed away a few days later from head injuries related to his beating. The Laramie Project is a very moving and powerful docudrama that explores the aftermath of the murder of Matthew Shepard on the Laramie community years after the crime. The production doesn’t seek to simulate the jarring events that happened that night. Rather, the play seeks to explore this event through the eyes of those who were closest to Matthew, the Laramie community, and from this perspective allow the audience to examine the circumstances surrounding Matthew’s murder. The Laramie Project, written based on interviews with the citizens of Laramie, attempts to piece together the sociological fabric that led to Matthew’s death. It also attempts to analyze what has happened to this fabric after his death. In so doing, the production sheds light on the blatant prejudices against gays, and the battle against those deeply entrenched prejudices. Artistic Vision The audience will be presented with two messages: First, the audience will be presented with The Laramie Project’s exploration of prejudice, tragedy, and community. In effect, the entire play can be said to represent the trial of the Laramie community itself and the circumstances that led to this tragedy. Evidence is presented in the form of eyewitness accounts (the interviews), and the audience members are allowed to analyze and decide for themselves how to respond to issues of prejudice and equality. In effect, they are treated as the jurors in this case about a tragic event and its effect on a community. Ultimately, when Matthew’s father asks the court to have mercy on his son’s murderers, he is recognizing the greater importance of society’s examination of its own prejudices. A portion of Mr. Shepard’s monologue reads, “Matt’s beating, hospitalization, and funeral focused worldwide attention on hate. Good is coming out of evil.” Second, many of the prejudices that this play explores are stereotypically attributed to white people in middle and rural America. Our production will accentuate its larger multicultural objective to emphasize the idea that stereotypes and prejudices don’t belong to any one group. The diverse cast will help challenge the conception that the problems of any two groups of people are unconnected. Matthew Shepard could easily have been a minority or another kind of outcast. Additionally, the perpetrators of this crime could easily have been one of us. In this manner we hope to underline some of what we see as the key objectives of productions such as The Laramie Project: the desire to expose the truth and the desire to act as a medium for change. All of the characters in this show represent real people, whether we agree with their particular viewpoints or not. They all have their own histories, political beliefs, religions, viewpoints, and prejudices. These characters are more complex than the typical character archetypes used in many productions. A major goal for this production will be to emphasize character development over complex set designs, sounds, and other theatrics. By challenging our actors to explore their own prejudices, and each of their character’s prejudices and histories and emphasizing these

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characters with set, costume, light and sound, we hope to create complex characters that audience members can relate with. Human nature is the major exploration of this play. Our production staff has discussed the intensive light work relative to other productions that we will have to utilize as an important means by which to develop the environment surrounding the actor. The foremost goal of any production is to provide an interesting experience for the audience. On the other hand, this production is also inextricably linked with an important analysis of social prejudice. One of the challenges between these two objectives in a production such as this will be to coordinate The Laramie Project’s thoughtful sociological presentation with the audience’s conceptions of entertainment and persuasion. This is to say a great indicator of success for this production will involve the audience not merely viewing the play, but also responding and reacting to it. We hope that by breaking the fourth wall, the audience will become less passive and more engaged in analyzing the issues in this play. This production isn’t meant to just be another night at the theater. Why the Agassiz After careful consideration of the various performances spaces and venues available at Harvard, we have determined that the Agassiz is one of our top two choices for this production. The Agassiz is an important theater space for us for many reasons: primarily, we believe that the Agassiz offers us a balance of both intimacy and separation with the audience. Members of our production staff with history in the Agassiz have indicated that it’s relatively simple and quick to get actors in position in the audience. The proscenium offers us an area exclusively for the actors to create the environment. Our ability to intermingle with the audience will allow us to bring the stage environment to them. It will be important for us to break down the fourth wall that exists between the audience and a traditional proscenium stage. Our actors will be able to sit with the audience in empty seats and/or next to them in the stairways for important scenes such as the funeral scene, and the singing of Amazing Grace. We want the audience to feel as if they are a part of the production itself. The artistic merit of establishing a direct relationship with the audience will allow us to help the audience take ownership of the play we create. Why The Laramie Project Our project will be really meaningful for many reasons. First, the topic matter of this production is important and different from most other productions at Harvard; it provides a thoughtful analysis of the effects and persistence of prejudice. Secondly, it is significant to note that we will approach Matthew Shepard’s tenth year anniversary this October, and The Laramie Project has yet to be introduced to the Harvard community. We want to bring this story to Harvard, and we think that its introduction here is long overdue. Finally, we hope to use this production as a springboard for further discussion and interest into the examination of other kinds of prejudice and discrimination. We noted earlier that “Matthew Shepard could easily have been a minority or another kind of outcast. Additionally, the perpetrators of this crime could easily have been one of us.” We would also like to note that prejudice and discrimination can also come in many forms, not just with violence but also in more subtle ways. Our company hopes to add to this discussion with

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this production, and also show that art can be used in ways to heal and/or address social ills such as prejudice, inequality, and discrimination. We sincerely believe in these ideals. Pete Kulalert, Assistant Director and Production Advisor Statement: When Jason approached me about The Laramie Project, I was captivated by his passion about the play and by his determination to introduce this show to the Harvard community. The Laramie Project, as Jason elaborated in his statement, is a powerful artistic exploration of the notion of prejudice, tragedy, and community. This play is a great example of an artwork that, with its aesthetic values intact, provokes the audience to look closer at the society they live in. It was a surprise indeed as I found out later that this important theater piece has not been produced on campus. As an Assistant Director, I will be working closely with Jason in every rehearsal. I look forward to learning from Jason, who has been trained as an actor and has performed in The Laramie Project himself. My main responsibility will to help with character work and assist the actors with transitioning from moment to moment. As there are approximately 60 characters in the show, it would be a challenging but exciting task to help each actor portray multiple roles assigned to him or her and help them create complex characters for each role. Each of the characters should have a developed character history and background that helps explain their points of view in the play and which also adds depth to each role. I will also pay close attention to the transitions throughout the play. As an Assistant Director, I envision the play as having a Brechtian quality, propelling the audience to look at the play from a critical point of view. Jason's idea of breaking the fourth wall in several scenes corresponds with this notion really well as we aim for an active audience, rather than a passive, voyeuristic one. By rendering the spectator a critical observer, we will present this politically charged content with a defamiliarized form that would force the audience to think about the controversial issues presented in the show and how these same and/or similar issues affect them in real life. I am excited to be part of this collaborative endeavor. Jason made it clear to me since our first meeting that all the staff members are his partners, that great ideas don’t only come from directors and that everyone will contribute artistically to the show. I am thrilled to work with our talented team. I will also be serving as a production advisor, assisting Hess in the areas where he might need help/advice. This October will be the ten year anniversary of Matthew Shepard's death. This important date, and the fact that we can advertise the show as the Harvard premiere of The Laramie Project would attract interest not only from the Harvard community, but the Cambridge and Boston community at large. We plan to publicize the show in academic departments and organizations, both at Harvard and outside Harvard, that are concerned about prejudice/stereotype issues, human rights, and gender studies and sexuality. Hessel Yntema, IV, Producer: The possibility of producing The Laramie Project at Harvard is genuine pleasure. First, The Laramie Project is a very moving script, all the more moving because it is so authentic and real. When we looked at the script, we were trying to determine what would make this docudrama

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different form a film documentary. The answer became astoundingly simple, its intimacy. This aspect of the production is something that excited me tremendously and many others that have pledged support as well. It was mentioned in the director's statement that, "Matthew Shepard could easily have been a minority or another kind of outcast." This serves to aid in many aspects of production. For staffing, many groups such as TEATRO! and BlackCAST have already volunteered to help with advertising, filling production staff spots, and other aspects of production. I also believe that the very topic discussed in this show will receive discussion around campus without too much prompting. We will definitely focus on and outreach within and around the Harvard community, and we believe we can definitely attract audiences with this kind of production. The Laramie Project leaves open the possibility of different grant opportunities that we wish to consider. We will be applying to many and in a broad range. All of these we will hopefully put into having a greater quality production for the audience that leads to a more authentic and immersive experience. Thank you very much, and I look forward to meeting with you. Truc Doan, Stage Manager: I am interested in being a stage manager for The Laramie Project. Although I don't have much experience, I am willing to help the production in whatever way I can. Having read the play in High School, I was especially fascinated with the multiple reactions to the crime against Matthew Shepard. Moises Kaufman's play rotates around and provides further dimensions to an incident made flat through media frenzy. The consequences of Matthew Shepard's murder wrestles in the play with the implications it makes about our society. I want to help bring the vision of the producers and director as much to the forefront in this regard as possible. I will be stage managing for Diana Son's Stop Kiss in the Loeb Ex in early October of next Fall as well. Experience: (not previously included) A Little Night Yiddish - Stage Manager - Hillel ARTS FIRST - Stage Manager - Sanders Theatre Vagina Monologues - Director - Agassiz Theatre Southeast Asia Night - Publicity and MC - Leverett Dining Hall Sweeney Todd - Spot Op – Mainstage Paul Sawyier, Lighting Designer: An effective lighting design for The Laramie Project requires good color choice to create appropriate mood during and within each moment while still keeping the show’s quality of being an “[A]ctor driven event” as written in the About the Staging section of the script. To that end, while there will be light changes within certain moments when mood changes as well as between different ones, such changes will be subtle and gradual. For example, in “The Fireside,” when the

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description changes from the Fireside bar and Matthew Sheppard to his kidnapping, the wash on stage will dim somewhat and change from a deep amber to a dull red/orange. In general, the mood of the show and corresponding wash changes from neutral or amusing (light amber/yellow) to angry/violent (dull red) or somber (deep blue). For long or particularly dramatic monologues, a noticeable but decently diffused spot will be on the speaker, such as Dr. Cantway’s monologue at the end of Act I, Aaron Kreifel’s monologue in “Finding Matthew Sheppard,” or Dennis Sheppard’s monologue in “Dennis Sheppard’s Statement.” In addition, during “The Gem City of the Plains,” since reports will enter the house and be among the audience as they give their lines and questions, the house lights will come on to about 25% for the audience members further from the reporters to be able to see them, but only after they start shouting. In the end, however, the most important aspect of my design for The Laramie Project will be ensuring that the various washes, light changes and effects will be distinctive, unobtrusive and effective at establishing the mood of the show and heightening its overall reality and drama. Jan Luksic, Set Designer: The Laramie Project consists of a compilation of separate individual stories to create one. The separate stories – the interviews, all overlap to create a network of impressions, which eventually create the one impression onto the spectator. The interviews create the story and the narrative substance is crucial for The Laramie Project. Thus, in the performance, we will, as a team of authors responsible for the particular artistic expression (director, actors, lighting, set design, costumes, etc.) work together to create a) the IMPRESSION, not necessarily a recreation of certain impressions appearing in the play itself, but rather an impression as such by establishing a spectacular images out of the minimalist design to “strike” the audience. The second goal I have as a set designer is to not to let the set as such get into the way of the performance – of the story. Instead, it has to work together with a story to facilitate certain aspects of the story and to be a part of it to create the variety of motives present in the play. The design will thus be strictly minimalist: mainly consisting of plain, non-defining chairs as an element of the set, as well as an element of the stage as such – not pretending to be a negation of what it really is. Chairs will be seemingly randomly arranged across the stage area, and the actors will sit on them, rising when someone is to narrate its interview. When such moment happens, the setting would have to be immediately responsive to the situation. In order for the situation to be completely adjustable we would use projections of impressions given by certain scenes (e.g.: funeral: crosses, graves, church – the entrance, altar, perhaps accompanied by some organ sounds). The case will be similar with the settings of the trial (jury sitting on the sits, surrounded by a minimal fence) and the scene when the body is found (actor just pretending to be tied to the stage, blood projected around and onto him. Some other motives from the descriptions will also be incorporated. At least 2, and up to 5 projectors will be used, projecting the motives behind certain actions. The Laramie Project gives me the possibility not just to design the set but to more wholly co-create the artistic expression that it will give. I cannot emphasize the passion that I feel about

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this artistic possibility enough! Our team will have to work hard together to create a coherent, smoothly flowing structure to the performance that will give both an impression to the spectator individually, as well as it will set new, diverse questions of our society. The impressions will try to facilitate these questions, instead of giving straight answers. It is in our own imagination that the impressions come together to re-create the show. Sonya Mollinger, House Manager and Lighting Assistant: I believe that putting on The Laramie Project as a play at Harvard will bring home to Harvard students the fact that tragedy can occur close to home, in familiar scenarios as well as unfamiliar ones; I'm excited about trying to produce this impact through the means of theater. In house managing: I ushered six times for The Mikado and twice for Patience, and helped out the house manager for those shows when there was a lack of ushers. Potential conflicts: class load, Crimson Crooners. Sam Stuntz, Sound Director: The sound design for The Laramie Project will be fairly limited – in keeping with the realism and fast pacing of the show, musical underscoring will be used sparingly if at all. Additionally, since the transitions between the plays “moments” are rapid and won’t require complicated set or costume changes, transitional music will not be necessary. The most important and necessary bit of music – a sung chorus of Amazing Grace – will come directly from the performers. Sound effects will also occur sparingly, adhering to the play’s self-proclaimed “desire to suggest, not re-create.” Effects will be used, however, to enhance several key moments in the performance. The most important of these is a scene in which a team of news reporters floods onstage to create an invasive “media cacophony.” In addition to the chaotic noise of the many actors speaking over each other, several radio-quality recordings of similarly indistinct news reports will be played over speakers at various points in the theater, some near audience seating areas. The relative lack of pre-recorded sound up until this point will make the chaotic broadcasts unexpected, giving the audience members a sense of the invasion of personal space felt by the characters portrayed onstage. Additionally, many “moments” in the show include the reading of e-mails or outside documents, particularly a key accusatory email condemning the entire town of Laramie for the murder of Matthew Shepherd. Several of these readings will be pre-recorded and broadcast in a similar fashion. Moonlit Wang, Costume Designer: As the Costume and Props Designer of the Laramie Project, I want to bring my personal vision and interpretation to this play. I have always believed that clothes are not simply flashy garments to attract others’ attention, but are rather media that help convey one’s personality and attitudes. If we look around,

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we can rarely see two people wearing the same outfit, even with the same individual pieces. Fashion is all about taking the same garments but putting them together in unique ways. Because people have different tastes and preferences, even the smallest variations show certain characters of the wearer. For example, a clean, pressed shirt shows that its owner is meticulous, serious and values how other people perceive him, and a stereotypical person with such shirts would be a businessman. If we take the same shirt and give it to a sloppy college student, the shirt would probably be wrinkled and worn with jeans instead of dressing pants. Similarly, costumes are used to express the personality of the characters. Similar to choosing articles of clothing as a mean to show one’s characters, I aim to select and arrange pieces to match and represent the stereotypical personality traits. I would focus on and exaggerate the small variations to bring out a certain trait. For example, we can represent the sloppiness of a character through un-tucked shirt corners and asymmetrical sleeve rolling. The costumes would be symbols that hint to the audience the persona of the character. By using costumes as a window to convey and shape the inner personalities of the characters in the play, we could communicate the play’s messages to the audience more effectively. On an even broader since, fashion represents cultures. The same sets of clothing could bring out totally different cultural atmosphere. I had that in mind when I directed a segment in IDENTITIES – A Charity Fashion Show. We took pieces of clothing from local American boutiques and used them to represent the street pop culture in Asian countries. What I learned in the process is that how but not what is the keyword in fashion. By layering and re-matching individual articles, we successfully turned our runway into a Japanese hip-hop street. I plan to use the same agenda for Laramie project. Since the play is set in the modern times, my focus would be representing the unique and characteristic personality traits of the play characters through everyday clothes, but at the same time, show the audience that these costumes are unique and illustrative and not ordinary at all.

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