Playwright shares experiences with cast/crew

By Britany Wright
November 15, 2007

Photo submitted by Lauren Schreiber

The theater program at Cabrini College hosted the playwright of the play recently performed at the college, “The Laramie Project.” The playwright, Leigh Fondakowski, has visited many college campuses before, but she had only witnessed one performance by another school. For her, the performance by the college’s theater program brought her back to the residents of Laramie all over again.

“The Laramie Project” is about the reactions of a town to the murder of Matthew Shephard from Laramie, Wyo. The play is a testament to Laramie. There are three testaments in the play: to Shephard and his fight against homophobia throughout his life, to the ordinary people of the town and how they can be great characters in theater and also Shephard’s family who to this day continue the fight against homophobia.

On Wednesday, Nov. 7, Fondakowski had dinner with the members of the theater program in the mansion. Before dinner, Fondakowski and the members had a discussion about who they were portraying in the play and her personal feelings about the play. During dinner, students sat down with her and made small talk. After dinner, she delivered a speech about her experiences from going to Laramie and how it affected her personally.

She asked them what was the hardest part of doing the performance. A stepping-stone for the actors in the performance was their own personal opinions versus their characters’. Since the play was written as homage to the residents of Laramie, it tells their stories. For effectiveness the actors sometimes stand in front of an audience member and deliver their lines. Fondakowski referred to this as the one-degree of separation that still does exist in-between the members of Laramie since it is such a small community.

After dinner, Fondakowski and the members of the company went over to Grace Hall where she delivered a lecture to members of the college’s community. “The Laramie Project,” covers the first hate crime that received a considerable amount of attention from the media. “The whole world came together and said this is wrong,” Fondakowski said.

The members of the Tectonic Theater Project visited Laramie on several occasions and recorded the transformations that people underwent for a year and a half after the murder of Shephard.

“The presence of the media changed the look and the feel of the town,” Fondakowski said. The members of the project came just after the media left Laramie. They sat down with the people and allowed the community members to tell their stories. “We heard the stories in all of its complexities and contradictions.” But through transcriptions of the tapes, the words of the people seemed to invoke the passion behind them.

Fondakowski said, “I have to admit though, people still playing me in the play is weird. My life changed through this experience as an artist. Theater can create depth and imagination that can aspire to changes.”

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Britany Wright

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