On Oct. 6 through Oct. 9, the Maryville College theater department will be presenting an eye-opening play on hate crimes and acceptance, “The Laramie Project.”
In 1996, Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten, tied to a fence and left to die in the small town of Laramie, Wyo. He died a few days later in the hospital. The reason? Shepard was gay. “The Laramie Project” was created as a reaction to those events.
The show’s director, MC theater professor Dr. Heather McMahon, said that the play will potentially “open the door for conversation about bullying.”
She also said she hopes it will “challenge the viewer to think about how we treat each other after seeing the play because the play is sympathetic from all points and walks of life.”
Despite the seriousness of the subject, McMahon said that everyone should come see it simply because it is “an entertaining night of theatre with moments of humor and lightness, and tells the world that things can change. While it is beautiful and moving, it has an ending full of hope.”
McMahon chose to direct the play because she was “interested in the challenge of the play for our student actors here at Maryville and community members because each actor must play multiple roles.” There are 12 actors in “The Laramie Project,” playing 71 different characters.
“It is very good actor training,” McMahon said.
When asked how the show might apply to college students, McMahon said: “It applies to MC students and the Maryville Community because we must consider if we are like Laramie. We really are not different, because everyone is capable of treating one another badly in the simplest way.”
McMahon used a line from the script to highlight her point. Father Roger Schmidt says, “Every time you are called a fag….or a lez, or whatever…do you realize that is violence? That is the seed of violence.”
McMahon said, “It questions all to think what acts of violence happen here.” She said that recently a gay hate crime took place nearby in Lenoir City. “The Laramie Project” is being produced at an appropriate time.
McMahon added, “I hope that it will prompt everyone to philosophically engage in conversations about bullying.”
To encourage acceptance and offer support, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) will be setting up a table at the door with information on their organization.
The cast includes student actors Sarah Bond, Caitlin Campbell, Sara Deatherage, Walker Harrison, Cameron Hite, Harley Matthews, Mary Moates, Amber Roberts and Jarrett Yoder, as well as community members Mitch Moore, Chuck Sayne and Emily Soleil.
The play is two and a half hours in length, and will include two intermissions. It will be held in the Haslam Family Flexible Theatre in the Clayton Center for the Arts on the Maryville College campus.