Laramie Project proves ‘Palmetto is no place for hate’

Kristen Coke, Co-Editor in Chief

“And the last thing he saw were the sparkling lights of Laramie Wyoming.” With these words the curtains closed on the Laramie Project, the fall play brought to Palmetto by the Comprehensive Theatre Class and Thespians Troupe 1298 on September 22nd and 23rd.

The Laramie Project, a harrowing docudrama based off of numerous interviews conducted by the Tectonic Theatre Group, captures the reactions and prejudices of the citizens of Laramie, Wyoming following the brutal beating of gay student Matthew Shepard, and the international hate crime case that brought Laramie into the spotlight as an example of the hate that exists in America.

“I think it made them [the actors] think and realize that even as short of a time ago as 1998, things like this were going on,” drama teacher and Thespians sponsor Elizabeth Silverio said.

The play was introduced to the Comprehensive Theatre class last year in order to start working on the many characters that each actor would have to portray.

“We worked on developing our characters for about two and a half months and, in the weeks leading up to the show, stayed at school until ten o’clock at night,” Comprehensive Theater student and sophomore Maddy Denaro said. “ We had to study different people or find sources of inspiration for our characters in order to make them seem real.”

“It was interesting seeing all of the actors interpret their characters. I knew how to portray mine because I have always wanted to be a judge, and getting to play one in the Laramie Project was my dream.”

For sophomore Jennifer Fundora, her source of inspiration for her emotionally charged character Doctor Cant Whitt, came from one of her best friends.

“I have a close friend of mine who is gay. I’ve known since we were little and he came out to me in the fourth grade,” Fundora said. “ In the eighth grade, people started making fun of him, and what I admired about him was his strength. I’ve never met anyone as strong as he was-and that strength is what I played upon for my character.”

Alongside the message of the play, Thespians brought the project ‘Palmetto is no place for hate’ to classrooms through the door decorating contest that centered around the theme and the inclusion of a lesson plan in order to challenge students to start thinking about the existence of hate against others in school. The message continued on in the dedication of the week of October 17 as Ally Week at Palmetto, culminating in Thursday’s ‘Wear Purple’ campaign in remembrance of those who identified as LGBT who committed suicide from being taunted and bullied for who they are.

Though the play is over at Palmetto, Thespians brought it to Districts Thespian Festival in the form of a One Act on Saturday, November 2. The play had to be shortened from its running time at Palmetto of two and a half hours to forty minutes, and introduced a new, compact set that complied with festival rules. Furthermore, some parts in the original play were reassigned to other actors, and the one act heralded in two new actors, Jesse Valienete and Conner Poplewko.

Despite the alterations the general message of the play still remained.

“I hope the same thing that happened at Palmetto happened at the festival: that we inspired people and made them see how not okay hate is. I don’t go in to one acts looking for a high score, I go in to hoping to convey a message that the audience will receive and connect to,” Silverio said.

Regardless, the Thespians returned proudly from the festival having received an ‘Excellent’ rating on The Laramie Project.

“We worked so hard for this competition and all of the stress, nerves and all of the hard work paid off. We were so excited to know we did much better then last year,” Thespians president and senior Jason Lewis said. “It felt great to run onstage and have everyone look at you. To hold the trophy as everyone was beaming with pride was just so rewarding and made me so proud of everything we have accomplished with this show.”