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Peddie Theatre in Bold Lights: The Laramie Project

Jessica Cheng ‘20

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The cast of the fall play, The Laramie Project, showcased their two months of hard work to the Peddie community at the William Mount-Burke theater October 26-28.

The Laramie Project, written by Moises Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project, highlights the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student. Nearly twenty years later, Director of Theatre, Elizabeth Sherman and 18 Peddie students, ranging from sophomores to seniors produced The Laramie Project. Cast members each took on the challenge of playing several roles. “The entire play was composed of monologue instead of conversation, and it required a lot of focus and hard work to execute every sentence like we wanted,” said Chris Liang ’20, one of the cast members.

When asked why this play was chosen by the Peddie Theater Department, Femia Tonelli ’19 said, “I think that this play really aims to convey several conflicting viewpoints surrounding a very controversial situation, while letting the audience make their own judgements on the situation. Mrs. Sherman chose this play because she hoped that it would spark a conversation on our own campus based on these conflicting viewpoints, to encourage positive discussion, as well as spreading awareness on the existence of hate as a very prominent issue in America today.”

The audience of the Laramie Project had mixed reviews after watching the show. “People don’t want to see something so depressing in a school play but rather see something funny and entertaining that makes the audience laugh. I understand where the directors are coming from, but I don’t think a school play is the right way to portray it,” said Andrew Depasquale ’20. On the other hand, some other students believed this was one of the most powerful plays ever presented on Peddie stage. Uma Mani ‘20 and Alex Lenart 20’ believed that the play conveyed a strong message to the audience and had wonderful cast members.

While the cast members were rehearsing on stage and memorizing the lines, the set crew devoted themselves to building and painting the set to ensure simple, but powerful scenery. The backdrop was a wooden fence-like structure, cut into jagged peaks to imitate the mountains seen in the town of Laramie. A doorway cut open on either side of the structure so that the actors could easily get on stage during their scenes.

Elizabeth Sherman, the director of the play, enjoyed her experience working with such a large and diverse cast. “It was challenging, certainly, but ultimately, highly rewarding. I think some of the newer actors were surprised by the sheer amount of work that is required to make a play, and this one required a good deal of heavy lifting and intense focus from everyone. Peddie’s mission statement has a line about measuring success by the progress we make, and in this regard, The Laramie Project was a home run,” said Sherman. “We certainly hope some folks were moved by the performance, but the work itself is the true reward for the cast. They all grew so much throughout the process. On the surface, they may have seemed to be a disparate group of kids–a relatively big cast, from different corners of campus–when in fact, they came together beautifully as an ensemble, especially in performance. I am grateful to all of them for their contribution to the production, and inspired by their passion and courage.”

Overall, The Laramie Project has found great success within the Peddie community and fostered conversation among students and teachers. It has opened up a new door for the Peddie community with its strong message and new format.

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Peddie Theatre in Bold Lights: The Laramie Project