CSU’s ‘The Laramie Project’ closes performances with a teary standing-ovation

Lauryn Bolz

“The Laramie Project,” a play depicting the true story about the death of Matthew Shepard, is inherently an emotional and sensitive play that requires special care and attention to both perform and see performed.

Jacob Bielmaier, a sophomore theatre student, performs as Steven Mead Johnson in CSU’s production of ‘The Laramie Project.’ (Lauryn Bolz | Collegian)

The Colorado State University Theatre department’s performance of “The Laramie Project” on Oct. 4 was both beautiful and gut-wrenching. Capturing the painful truth of the events that took place in Laramie, Wyoming 20 years ago, the play paid homage to the life, death and lasting legacy of Shepard.

Ad

The play, which utilized only a simple buck-and-rail fence as a permanent set piece, used a small cast of actors playing multiple characters to portray the revolving sense of organized chaos. The cast effortlessly switched between roles, moving with perfect fluidity and recounting the brutal murder of Shepard and the waves of impact that were created all over the nation in response to his death.

The turbulent style of narration lent itself to the confusion and imbalance felt by the residents of Wyoming and LGBTQ activists across the country. The performers were able to perfectly execute each move, keeping the flow of the narrative at a pace that kept tension and excitement high, without leaving out important details and information.

With such a simple set, the lighting and sound choices that the CSU theatre department made for the production had a major impact on the feel of the show. Bright blue lights illuminated the back wall, bringing audiences out into the wild Wyoming plains.

At the end of the show, the hue was changed to black and the twinkling lights of Laramie danced across the pensive, thoughtful faces of the actors after as they said their final lines, inviting the audience to join in a moment of final reflection before the uproarious, albeit teary, standing ovation.

The use of sound, while mostly subtle, was sometimes jarring, and removed the audience from the narrative. Unlike the lighting choices, the sound sometimes seemed to appear from nowhere without any proper context. For example, when a relatively minor character is speaking about how he was impacted by the parade for Shepard, an upbeat guitar swells to a level just above the volume of the actor and fades out just as soon as it appears. It’s unclear why this happens, and the scene would have been more powerful without the distraction.

However, the use of the stripped-down instrumental cover of the band Tears for Fears song “Mad World” made for a profound closure to the play’s second act.

“The Laramie Project” is an ambitious endeavor that requires skilled performers and dedicated production. CSU’s theatre department played every moment with passion, enthusiasm, and most importantly, respect.

The commitment to accurate depiction shines through with every twist and turn, and is displayed in the loud and impassioned monologues given by the characters. A performance that no one is soon to forget, “The Laramie Project” is a show that deserves every bit of attention and praises it receives.

Lauryn Bolz can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com and on Twitter @laurynbolz.