Slide Show: ‘The Laramie Project’ Performed at Trinity’s Austin Arts Center November 17-19

Writer Stephen Belber ’89 Joins Faculty, Staff, and Students to Discuss the Play’s Relevance

The Laramie Project at Trinity CollegeHartford, Connecticut, November 17, 2016 – The Laramie Project, a play by Moisés Kaufman and the members of Tectonic Theater Project, will be performed in the Goodwin Theater at Trinity College’s Austin Arts Center Thursday, November 17, through Saturday, November 19, at 7:30 p.m. The play is directed by Trinity College Associate Professor of Theater and Dance Barbara Karger and is presented by the Department of Theater and Dance. Admission is free, but tickets are required. Call the Austin Arts Center Box Office at (860) 297-2199.

Why Now and Why at Trinity?

Trinity alumnus Stephen Belber ’89, a Broadway produced playwright and associate writer on The Laramie Project, returned to campus on November 9 to take part in a conversation called “The Laramie Project: Why Now and Why at Trinity?” Joining him in the discussion were Karger, Women and Gender Resource Action Center (WGRAC) Director Laura Lockwood, Assistant Professor of American Studies Jack Gieseking, and student representatives from the cast, the crew, and Encouraging Respect of Sexualities (EROS).

Belber first provided the history behind the play and the event that inspired it. On October 7, 1998, a gay college student named Matthew Shepard was discovered bound to a fence outside Laramie, Wyoming, savagely beaten and left to die in an act of brutality and hate that shocked the nation. Shepard’s death became a national symbol of intolerance. In the aftermath, Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project, including Belber, went to Laramie and conducted interviews with its citizens. From the transcripts, they constructed The Laramie Project, which has become one of the most widely performed theater pieces in America.

The discussion panelists included (left-right): Barbara Karger, associate professor of theater and dance; Anya Forsberg ’19; The Laramie Project associate writer Stephen Belber ’89; Jack Gieseking, assistant professor of American studies; Laura Lockwood, director of Trinity’s Women and Gender Resource Action Center; and William Kurach ’18. (Not pictured: Sarah-Kristen Vazquez ’19.)
“We went to Wyoming to be there as citizens, to listen, and that’s all we did,” Belber said. He and his collaborators returned to Laramie many times and also interviewed the perpetrators in an attempt to answer questions such as, “What in the community gave rise to this hate crime?”

As Belber addressed whether theater is relevant in the current social and political climate, he stressed that art can facilitate important dialogue. “TV and film is a way we dialogue with each other, and theater is still the root of these,” Belber said. “How do you diffuse fear? Theater is where a community goes to talk to itself.”

Karger, who moderated the discussion, explained that she had been reluctant to take on directing The Laramie Project, “and then Orlando happened,” she said, referring to the mass shooting at a gay nightclub on June 12, 2016. “Then there was no other choice,” she added. “I was amazed [The Laramie Project] had never been done here. The brilliance of the play is that it doesn’t tell you what to think. It presents a range of opinions.”

Cast member Sarah-Kristen Vazquez ’19 said, “This piece is incredibly important because it teaches tolerance and compassion and love, showing there’s a better way to deal with hate.”

Lockwood added, “Even though we have been exposed to hate during this election, this play gives us a platform to come together and exhibit hope.”

Written by Andrew J. Concatelli

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.
Photos by John Atashian. To view the Flickr album of photos from which this slide show was generated, please click here.