Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Laramie Project

As promised, what follows are my thoughts/reviews of the Burnett Drama Department's Spring Production of "The Laramie Project".
I have written before of how privileged and proud I feel to have the opportunity to work and learn with the talented and dedicated staff and students of J.N. Burnett Secondary school.  I have referenced the great things happening both in and outside the classroom and am honestly astounded by many of the things I see.
The theatre production that has just finished running this past week, however, has me almost at a loss for words.  All that comes to mind is "WOW!".  Under the direction of Drama teacher Mr. Marco Soriano and with the assistance of fellow staff members Mr. Wes Bevan, Mrs. Cristina Carvalhiero and Ms. Kirsten Taylor (who provided help with set construction, video production and artwork) the talented cast and crew put together a stunningly beautiful and provocative piece.
The Laramie Project is a well-known and critically-acclaimed 3-act play that profiles the city of Laramie, Wyoming.  In October of 1998, a gay university student was brutally beaten and killed in the town. The story got a tremendous amount of media attention, and one month later the Tectonic Theatre company went to Laramie and conducted over 200 interviews over the next year with many residents of the area.  The interviews led to the writing of the play.  

Most high school performances leave the audience laughing, singing and/or feeling good about life.  This one was different.  As described by Mr. Soriano, the play "provokes thought, incites conversation and challenges the performers... (it) does not pretend to offer solutions.  It simply holds up a mirror to us as an audience and forces us to consider our role in the problem."  Issues surrounding respect, tolerance, prejudice, relationships and community run throughout the play and have both cast and audience members thinking and asking questions at the play's conclusion.  While I was impressed by and proud of our students and their performances, I found myself wondering, despite about all that we do at Burnett to combat many of these issues in today's world, are we doing enough?

The stage work, lighting, sound, visuals and performances were at a remarkably professional level.  Most of the actors had between 3 and 5 different roles and the characters, accents and opinions were widely disparate.  The performers were stunningly good in their portrayals and played each role with impressive depth and conviction.  The lessons learned by cast and audience members alike will resonate with them for years to come, and hopefully, performances such as these will continue to challenge us to make the world a more respecting, thoughtful and caring place.
Apparently, I am not at a loss for words.  I would like to thank all of the staff and students who worked so hard in putting together what was a moving, professional and thought-provoking production.  Well done!  It may be a copyright infringement, but I give the show "two thumbs way up"!

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