3 STARS OUT OF 5 (Want to know exactly what our star ratings mean? Check out our explanations here.)
Seattle Central has a drama department, and I wish more people knew about it, especially after seeing them perform The Laramie Project.
Reinstated in 2015, Central’s drama program has been putting up student-performed plays for the last 4 years. In 2019, the department chose to present The Laramie Project from May 30 to June 8. It was directed by drama instructor Shelley Douma.
The Laramie Project was written and performed in 2000 by the Tectonic Theater Project. Its focus is the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a young gay student from Laramie, Wyoming, and its effect on the townspeople of Laramie, the United States, and the world as a whole. The circumstances surrounding his death were internationally publicized, with massive outcry across the world calling for hate crime laws to extend to anti-LGBT violence (at the time they covered only racist and sexist hate crimes).
The play isn’t a traditional narrative of beginning-middle-end; rather, it contains reenactments of interviews with and stories told by Laramie residents to members of the Tectonic Theater Project. It also has some interludes with fourth-wall-breaking musings from members of the Project themselves.
Because of this nontraditional structure, some parts — especially transitions — carried an air of clumsiness with them. It’s hard to say whether this was more the fault of the actors of that of the playwrights themselves, but ultimately any awkward moments were quickly recovered from.
Far more importantly, all of the cast members gave the incredibly serious material the weight that it deserved. They well and fully committed to the parts that they played — even the cast members who had to pull off uncomfortable roles, like a bible-toting preacher who confidently decrees that Shepard and all “gays” will go to hell.
The technical basics of theatre were also there, if a bit shaky at times. Everyone had excellent diction, and clearly understood not only what their character was saying but why they were saying it. Standouts include the actors Linda Cardinal-Rigor, Lam Nguyen, and Hebe Lee.
Overall, a huge congratulations to the entire casts for pulling off such a difficult play. It would be great if the school would more widely advertise future performances; The Laramie Project’s cast deserved a much larger audience than they got, primarily because (save for some posters up around the school) there was little publicity for it.
Keep an eye on Central’s drama department for future productions. If you’re interested in learning more about Matthew Shepard or what you can do to combat homophobia, check out the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which was started by his parents.