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posted: 3/24/2014 9:32 AM

GreenMan Theatre Troup to stage 'Laramie Project'

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  • A cast of eight suburban actors portrays more than 60 characters in GreenMan Theatre's production of "The Laramie Project," running two weekends in April.

      A cast of eight suburban actors portrays more than 60 characters in GreenMan Theatre's production of "The Laramie Project," running two weekends in April.
    Courtesy of GreenMan Theatre Troupe

  • "The Laramie Project" discusses the murder of gay student Matthew Shepard in a series of vignettes based on interviews conducted in the Wyoming town following his death. Discussions will follow the performances.

      "The Laramie Project" discusses the murder of gay student Matthew Shepard in a series of vignettes based on interviews conducted in the Wyoming town following his death. Discussions will follow the performances.
    Courtesy of GreenMan Theatre Troupe

 
By Carl Zeitler
GreenMan Theatre Troupe

GreenMan Theatre's upcoming production of "The Laramie Project" by Moises Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project is a powerful drama that draws on hundreds of interviews conducted by that theater company in the aftermath of the 1998 murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyo.

GreenMan Artistic Director and Lombard resident David Soria, who is directing the production, was drawn to do so for many reasons.

"I have seen the play twice before and found the performances to be powerful and moving. However, I hadn't noticed the play being performed at any of the several local community theaters near us for some time," Soria said.

"I felt that the story continues to be an important one for audiences to see in many communities. It was time for us to take the lead at GreenMan and produce the play."

"The Laramie Project" is presented in numerous short scenes based on the conducted interviews, and eight local actors will portray more than 60 characters throughout the show. One of those actors is Lauren Scanlan, a fifth-grade teacher from Carol Stream, who knew how important the show was when she auditioned.

"I have a love of theater, but mostly theater that communicates a message. 'The Laramie Project' is so much more than a play about a murder. It speaks about tolerance and acceptance of others. I try to teach my students not only to be accepting of each other but confident in themselves.

"It is our differences that make us special. So I am hoping that (by) being a part of this play I can help communicate that message of tolerance, love and respect to our community," Scanlan said.

Assistant Director Katie Soria of Lombard finds much significance in helping bring this show to GreenMan's stage.

"One strength of this play is that it includes the real words of a wide variety of people reacting to the event in Wyoming. A range of opinions and world views are included, from the provincial to the religious to the academic -- it is not just speeches by those whose views serve one political agenda or side of the story.

"It captures a variety of concerns, fears and hopes that those affected by the crime were left to grapple with, and I find it a very balanced, honest portrait of an American town coming to terms with some harsh social realities," she said.

The show runs for seven performances Friday, April 4, to Sunday, April 13. One performances is Friday, April 11, the date for this year's Day of Silence, a national student-led event that brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in our schools.

Students from middle school to college take a vow of silence to encourage schools and classmates to address the problem of anti-LGBT behavior by illustrating the silencing effect of bullying and harassment on LGBT students and those perceived to be LGBT.

The play has important messages about the nature of hate crimes, combating hate speech and increasing acceptance in our communities. Such messages are also part of the Day of Silence observations. GreenMan Theatre will have discussions after each performance of "The Laramie Project" and invites audiences to stay and discuss their reactions to the thought-provoking play.

David Soria is in the middle of the rehearsal process and relishes the opportunities the actors are embracing in presenting this story.

"I think this is a good challenge for the actors, getting to play such a variety of parts. And unlike many plays where there are clear lead and supporting roles, this is a play where each actor, each character, is vitally important to telling the story," Soria said.

"I find myself most engaged by plays like this that have such innovative and unusual storytelling techniques, that open up a story to many interpretations. In short, plays that not only challenge an audience, but also reward them with a rich experience."

The cast is Ben Armstrong of Bensenville, Valerie Meachum of Elgin, Kate Mirsky of Addison, Duard Mosley of Elmhurst, Cheryl Rice of Elmhurst, Eric Scanlan of Carol Stream, Lauren Scanlan of Carol Stream, and Frank Warpeha of Oak Brook.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances begin at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday matinees begin at 2 p.m. Performances are in Asbury Hall at First United Methodist Church, 232 S. York Road, Elmhurst.

Tickets are $17 for adults, $15 for students and seniors. For groups of 10 or more, each ticket will be discounted $2. Tickets can be reserved by calling the box office at (630) 464-2646 or online at greenmantheatre.org.

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