From left: Matt Winger, senior marketing major from Chicago; David Crell, attorney from North Manchester; Kathy Hawkins, Manchester Elementary School teacher; Catherine Lange, senior English major from Ferdinand, Ind.; Jacob Ray, sophomore English major from Claypool, Ind.; Adam Dundas, first-year English education major from Grand Rapids, Mich.; Jorian Topsoglou, first-year psychology student from Fort Wayne; Emily Perkins, associate director of the Wabash County Historical Museum

Huge barn set, 60 roles turn MU theatre into The Laramie Project

Manchester University’s fall drama, The Laramie Project, is the Our Town for the new millennium, say critics. The Oct. 19-21 production is a thought-provoking, riveting theatre experience of a small town at the epicenter of an incomprehensible crime.

In 1998, the murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student, brought national attention and awareness of the lack of hate crime laws in various states. A month later, members of Tectonic Theater Project traveled to Laramie to conduct more than 200 interviews with townsfolk. The Laramie Project, written by Moisés Kaufman and members of Tectonic Theater Project, is the outcome.

Eight student and community actors will portray more than 60 characters on a huge barn set surrounded by the audience in Wampler Auditorium on the North Manchester campus. “It's an epic undertaking,” says MU’s new theatre director, Joel Froomkin.

Manchester is presenting the three-act play one week after the 15-year anniversary of Shepard's death – at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19 and Monday, Oct. 21, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Oct. 20. Ticket prices are $7; free for MU students, faculty and staff. Reservations are not necessary. The play contains adult language and situations not suitable for children.

The play has amassed more than 900 productions seen by more than 300 million.

“This piece honors every facet of a community,” said Froomkin. “This is not a play about a young gay man – Matthew never appears and his murder is never depicted. It's about the fragile fabric of community and how deeply one horrible moment can bind it together or tear it apart. This is not a production about an individual or a 'lifestyle' … it's a study of courage, forgiveness, tolerance and hope."

October 2013

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