Tonight, I’m live-blogging our last run-through before we head into technical rehearsals. This is the place where actors will pick up some of their notes but is also a way to introduce our readers to our process, our space, our productions. Enjoy!
Worklight views of our beautiful set.
Click LaramieCastWarmup to see the cast in action!
Our glorious stage manager Don gives notes about live video feeds tonight, live flame (!) for the candlelight vigil.
Actors check presets of the 150 total costume pieces and props. They will wait in their opening places from the time the house opens. We wait for our videographer, Alex, to sync up feed for moment titles and video feed.
Bart Matthews’ original score sets the mood with an overture that gives the melodic themes that will carry through the show. His upright piano accompaniment is LIVE!
Actors engage costumes and props as transitional objects, moving from their “roles” as Duke students performing in a play, to Tectonic company members collecting interviews, to Laramie citizens. Each piece is activated as soon as it is picked up.
Jacob and Ben have such a great rapport as Narrator and Doc O’Connor. I wonder if Ben might go ahead and look at Jacob as he saunters over near him while Doc is talking about the trains.
Sgt Hing and the reporter “lady” are in the same place outside in the Laramie but it’s amazing how they see such different things. For him, grandeur and beauty. For her, desolation.
This is a mouthful, “Head of the theater department at the University of Wyoming.”
Ashley/Rebecca maybe needs to feel a bit more judgment, skepticism in the Tectonic listeners. Help her motivate, “I love my students …”
Tectonic members, when you meet Jedadiah, what is your mood? Do you see yourselves in his eagerness?
Andy/Jedadiah, are you defensive or explanatory on “I’m not gay.”
Tectonic members when you’re in the diner, you’re both in the diner and in your journals. So make sure that you play the scene of waiting and ordering and the asides to the audience about what you’ve observed on your trip into this place.
It just strikes me how much Marge and Alison might enjoy flirting a bit with this handsome young actor who is interviewing them — talking about “all togethers” and “Minnie” in the roundhouse.
How “embarrassed” are you to explain, SOL, Alison? Do you treat the explanation as a duty, give it with a smirk, or as if he’s a bit thick for not being able to reason it out?
Afftene/Marge, getting up from the chair at the end of your interview works so well. Do you maybe start to leave and stop yourself and then tell him that last thought?
OK. I sneezed during someone’s monologue and it strikes me, how aware are all the actors of being watched? Of speaking to each other as listeners but to the audience as well? What would you do if someone spoke to you or did something in response to your conversation during the show? Not that I expect people to misbehave, but just to urge you to look in the eyes of the audience if/when you speak directly to them. Consider how they are in the moment with you. This applies to laughs, coughs, any discomfort you sense, any support/affection they show you.
Naomi/Catherine Connolly. I love that you get to the stage space just as you say, “the only out gay or lesbian …”. Perfect timing. It was illegal for them to ask about your “husband” in your interview.
Naomi/Amanda Gronich. How important is it that we know that this is what you remember of that sermon?
Ash/Steven Mead Johnson–you are really taking hold of your position as directing the quartet of religious voices. Is he being honest or self-deprecating when he describes Unitarians as almost not a religion at all? Does Matthew’s death give him a reason to be a religious leader? If so, how does that change his last line in that quartet scene?
Kimi/Zuibaida–love that scene with Stephen. Yeah. I wonder whether you might not, in a Brechtian sense, notice that you are in a theater, performing the play that Stephen has written?
Summer/Baptist Minister’s Wife–where I was sitting I only got your back. I wonder whether you might think about how your posture changes as Naomi/Amanda makes her pleas?
Andy/Matt M. when you say, “every night is ladies night” is it a possible flirtation with Barbara? I just heard that differently tonight and it make me think of the real Matt M’s willingness to participate in that faux nineteenth-century marriage with that performance artist in 2009.
Ben/Matt G.–love watching you explain the night’s events with Henderson and McKinney. It helps set up your later lines about having to “develop a funneling system.” How many of the words that you are using in this description are words you are comfortable with or that you are just using for the first time?
Summer/Romaine and Spencer/Phil LaBrie — do you maybe address your lines to Emma/Narrator, Kimi/Barbara and your nearby audience members because both of you are countering or supporting details in Matt G.’s description.
Afftene/Shadow is so riveting. I never found any coverage of a DJ’s story in news reports which makes me wonder whether Tectonic was the only entity to get his story. What makes him trust/talk to them?
These costumes are becoming so much a part of what you all are doing. So if you don’t get things on exactly when it’s your time to talk, that’s OK. Work them as if your character is putting something on or taking something off during your interview. Jacob/Jon Peacock you had a nice moment of this at the top of Act 2′s “A Laramie Man.”
Giving Summer/Leigh and Julian/Spencer that chance to touch towards the end of Act 1 is such a nice change of the dynamic of separate but intertwined conversations we’ve got going. It’s the only time Tectonic folks touch or closely interact. So really enjoy it, notice its meaning to what you are saying to us.
In the Aaron/Reggie/Dr. Cantway trio it strikes me how isolated the three of them are as they introduce their roles in finding Matthew — “I was riding my bike ..” “I responded to the call …” “I was working the ER the night …” yet the juxtaposition of their stories show that they are not alone, each of their actions is part of the chain of events. The way you all are now referencing each other by the scene’s end helps bring them into conversation not only with us but with each other. Helping each other understand what has happened.
ACT ONE ENDS!
Can I just say how much I love ya’ll?!
ACT TWO BEGINS!
In the “onion” that starts this act, are ya’ll open to smiling, acknowledging smiles or other looks from the audience?
Ben/Matt G. when you’re having that conversation with Andy/Matt M. what happens if you take those “I go ..” and “I said ..” directly while looking at Andy vs. to Afftene.
YAY! We’ve got live video! Jeremy and Manny ya’ll are gonna probably have to shift from doing a crouch to standing head-on to your subjects.
Don, we might need to add camera focus time to the pre-set for Manny and Jeremy and at least a couple of stand-in reporters.
Alex, is there a way to set an automatic focus on those cameras that can make sure that they’re set from the start of the show?
Love the tone and pace of Julian/Judge in “The Essential Facts.” Is there a way to add a wee bit more volume to the sotto voce section?
Here we go — MEDIA CACOPHONY. First time with live video feed. Looking good ya’ll. And the voices raised to cover all the chaos. Good support We might need to set a little time for a separate rehearsal with individual reporters and their cameramen.
Jacob/Jon Peacock is the only person really reacting to the different details from Cameron/Rulon about Matthew’s condition. Not that everyone needs to go into silent film poses in response but remember this is the “first time” you all have heard these details.
The “Seeing Matthew” moment shares some of the same qualities with the “Finding Matthew Shepard” scene. Each of the people we meet — Rob, Aaron K., Catherine, Matt G., Reggie and Marge — talks about “I..” …. “I wanted it so tight …” “Why did God want me to find him…” “I was irrationally terrified …” “I shouldn’t have been washing dishes …” “What I didn’t tel you before …”
Love the dynamic now between Emma/Reggie and Afftene/Marge. Is it a “like mother, like daughter” tendency to use humor to deflect emotion?
Ashley/Murdock Cooper you’ve got a great place on the edge of stage to use an audience member, if you are so inclined, as someone who might empathize with your position about “pickin’ up regular people.”
Nice Julian/Jonas with Andy/Jedadiah. I think you can challenge him even more with “That’s a great philosophy?” You’ve got another speech that end with a couple of pointed questions at the end of Act Three. Might think about these two speeches in relation.
I love the on-stage vigil. It’s gonna look so cool when the lights are down.
Summer/Jen and Jacob/Shannon ya’ll’s dynamic is terrific. Just watch that you don’t get too conspiratorial in your tone, too soft for us to hear or rush through your sentences ’cause you all reveal a lot to us about Aaron McKinney.
Kimi/Homecoming Newsreporter — great getting that anchor/reporter in the field persona with physical stillness and vocal variety.
Alex — Did we decide to cut or never include the three circles graphic from the parade in the “Homecoming” moment?
Emma/Sherry Johnson — like the choices you’re making with her. After Spencer/Harry’s emotional evocation of the Homecoming parade, hearing Sherry’s perspective on events helps jolt the audience to the contrast in their views of Matthew.
Julian/Father Roger — YES!! that transition into Father Roger from Greg is exactly what we’re talking about in terms of thinking of costumes and props as a layering-on of character. Ben/Doc, I wonder if you might do something similar with Doc’s coat as you enter the space, first as Stephen in the “H-O-P-E” Moment.
Funny moment when Spencer/Andrew Gomez almost ended up in an intimate scene with Cameron/Rulon Stacey. Afftene remember to move that chair over to the other edge of the canvas when you leave the chair during your earlier scene with Emma/Reggie.
Naomi/Amanda and Afftene/Baptist Minister and Summer/Baptist Minister’s Wife — In both of these phone conversation scenes, ya’ll need to shift in the middle to looking towards the other direction of the stage so that each side of the audience on the aisle get to see your profiles. Here’s where that should happen. As the Minister says “Now , those two people, the accused …” (pg. 68) and in the earlier scene it should come when Amanda says, “Oh, I know, I really understand, it must have been terrible” (pg. 27).
Afftene/Baptist Minister — Love what you’re doing with this man. Wonder if you might stress “that lifestyle” in your very last line in the conversation with Naomi/Amanda.
Alex — I love the rain graphic on the moment slide, but I wonder if it might not go away for Rulon’s update.
Cameron/Rulon — I know we’ve only got one camera on you in this theater, but in the real circumstance he’s got a lot of camera’s on him. So you can look around as you deliver your updates. I missed whether you said a hard “t” in “premature.”
Ya’ll are doing so well on lines! There is so much to remember in this show. Blocking is spot-on, “active listening” is flowing through the space. As you get even more secure, you can give yourselves permission to feel as if you’re really talking to us.
Good with the chairs everybody!Remember the protocol: front legs down first then back.
ACT TWO OVER! You guys ROCK!
No snow machine tonight. : (
ACT THREE BEGINS!
I want a CD of Bart’s music for this show.
The Our Town homage. Black umbrellas slowly fill the stage as we shift to the day of Matthew’s funeral.
Spencer/Priest — I’m sure it’s the latent Catholic in me, but I can’t help responding to your “The Lord be with you” with “And also with you.”
Here comes Fred Phelps/Ash. Maybe kick up the sound on your undercurrent dialogue when Cameron begins “Amazing Grace”? Just so we get a sense of the counter point that Jacob has just described? It will also give us a preview of the struggle that comes later with the angel action.
Phelps protestors are you all prepared for audience members to talk back to you?
Love the harmony with Amazing Grace. Gotta hear you above all that Summer/Romaine!
Andy/Russell — I’ve been reading a lot recently about how flat and unconvincing Russell’s statement to the Shepard’s came across. I wonder whether we really need to see his earnestness, his desire for mercy when he is questioned by the judge in the opening of the “Russell Henderson” moment in order to see any kind of contrast in his demeanor when he speaks to the Shepards. Loved the look to Kimi/Lucy. Does he say what he says to the Shepards because his family has convinced him he should do so?
Kimi/Lucy Thompson–nice tonight. I heard age in her vocal lilt not Southerness.
Ash/Mormon Home Teacher — This character serves a similar role in the play as Dennis Shepard. What happens to the speech if you think of yourself as Russell’s closest father figure. Dennis Shepard speaks to us of losing his son and you, as you talk about Russell, are doing something similar. Excommunication is a serious abandonment; are you risking something by telling Tectonic that you’re going to stand by Russell?
Cameron/Rob DeBree — Love what you’re doing with “This is America.” That’s his big realization. His previous homophobia has been unpatriotic.
Afftene/Marge and Emma/Reggie — nice counter dynamic to your previous scene where humor is punctuating sadness. Now happiness/excitement is flowing through your interaction.
Kimi/Zubaida — Flatten that “A” a bit more in “Aaron.”
NEW EXCITEMENT! Live video in the interrogation scene! We’re doing a bit of the 24 episode quarter-division of the TV screens to capture Rob’s interrogation of Aaron.
Alex and Jeff — Should we keep the feed during “Gay Panic”?
Cameron/Rob — In the interrogation scene, I love Rob’s intensity, but I wonder if you even try to lighten the mood and almost offer yourself as someone who sympathizes with Aaron’s world view.
Active listeners, decide how you are receiving these verdicts. Again, it’s not like you have to draw attention to yourselves, but we are going to be looking at you for some kind of response. There are a lot of blank stares right now.
Jacob/Dennis — Nice build in the description of Matthew’s friends. The “he had God” hit just the right tone. Nice with “who refused to show any mercy,” you took this as a light line vs. hard/angry. You’re going to have to take a moment for yourself to come out of that monologue. It’s probably going to be a good time to find yourself again when Ben/Matt G. starts talking.
Ash/Aaron — “God wanted me to find Matthew …” Really explain to us your realization ’cause it’s been what we’ve heard from you since you were first introduced. This speech is the end of your journey.
Andy/Andy P/Jedadiah — Good transition putting on Jedadiah.
ACT THREE OVER!!!
HURRAY! HURRAH! Shake it out. Give each other high fives, hugs, and kudos. And let’s get our tech hats on!
Or his name is Andy Chu. It really could be both. Just saying.
Because really, looking for differences between the two of us is a lot harder than looking for the similarities. We are two heterosexual theatre nerds raised in stable, conservative Protestant homes and attending college with the intention of becoming professional actors. We will have both played Jedadiah Schultz. We were both thrilled to become involved in The Laramie Project.
And we both had no idea what it was we signed up for.
I write this now at 5:11 P.M., Thursday, March 31, in the cold, fluorescently lit rooms in the very back of the Bryan Center. I have come here an hour and forty-nine minutes before rehearsal to try to get a handle on the character of Jedadiah. The pressure I have put on myself to get Jedadiah right has crammed me up in my head, where I cannot work, and I intend to fix this in this hour and forty-nine minutes. I write this as I rehearse.
MOMENT: A DEFINITION
When Jeff asked me in our individual session so many weeks ago what Jedadiah Schultz was, I thought for a moment, and I told him, “He’s someone who’s thrust into a world where everything that wasn’t supposed to happen, happened.” And what better way is there to describe matriculating to a university? As a freshman (and I write now at the expense of being trite), the whole world is upside-down. For starters, there is a world, and it’s hot and wild and kaleidoscopic and so unimaginably real: and this, you are told repeatedly by FACs and GAs and professors (and bus drivers), is your world to crack wide open. Political, social, religious, sexual mores are thrown out the window, and you have to learn to create yourself again and for the first time.
MOMENT: ANGELS IN AMERICA
So when I met Jeff and found out he was directing The Laramie Project, which was also to be part of the course material for my FOCUS class with him, things really started to click. Not only was Jeff an incredible theatre professor, he also owned his own professional theatre just ten minutes from campus. More than that, he seemed to like me–as a person, a student, and as an actor.
I read The Laramie Project in early September, in just a few hours, and I was taken with the material. The concept of documentary theatre was new, edgy, artistic–and I relished the thought of being a part of it. Particularly, I wanted a chance to play this one character named Jedadiah Schultz, with whom I felt I had connected as I read. And sure enough, when I arrived at callbacks for the show, Jeff had me read Jedadiah’s first Angels in America monologue, as if he had somehow known.
So I read it, and I knew that I could really make a splash at Duke (and with Jeff) if I did a good enough job.
There was, of course, the issue of how Jedadiah’s character arc ended. He gave in, I felt, to the pressures around him, renouncing the ways of his parents and his religion and buying into homosexuality like any other post-modern relativist. But he was such a good character. He was like the best character.
So I decided to do it.
MOMENT: LIVE AND LET LIVE
When I was in middle school, two women and a young girl moved in next door. When I asked my mom who the girl’s mother was, she told me that the women were homosexual. I asked what that meant.
Of course, in Asheville, North Carolina, the lesbian capital of the East Coast, it was not unexpected for my mother. It was, however, my first encounter with girls who didn’t like boys. It soon became more regular. In high school, one of my best friends, Deidre, came out to me (I had had a crush on her, so the experience wasn’t easy), and I became more aware of homosexuality in the media, among the theatre kids I hung out with, and in the world at large.
I also knew, from my private Christian high school education, that homosexuality was wrong. Speaking in religious terms, it wasn’t how God had intended it to happen, and no amount of human desire could justify it. After all, humans wanted to do all sorts of things to each other, but desire didn’t seem to justify rape, or murder, or theft.
At the same time, I wasn’t going to treat the gay people I knew any differently. I loved Deidre, and besides, most of the gay people I knew seemed nice enough. I just disagreed with their lifestyle.
The same was true when I got to college. I knew the chances of my coming into contact with out homosexuals was much higher–a.) because of how open and liberal college campuses tended to be, and b.) because I was going to study theatre. This, I knew, became especially true after I was cast in a play called The Laramie Project.
MOMENT: ANGELS IN AMERICA
Come March, life was different. I was firmly entrenched in Duke theatre, even before The Laramie Project, which would be the fourth show I had been involved with since arriving; I had great friends and a wonderful girlfriend; and classes were going pretty well. Laramie was going well, too–in every character but Jedadiah Schultz. The murderer, the Mormon, the bar owner–they were all fine, but there was something about Jedadiah that I couldn’t get.
What I realized was that Jedadiah was too much like me. Or I was too much like him. Either way, we were too similar for me to get a handle on him, because who, really, can get a handle on himself? Plus, Jedadiah was going where I didn’t. Jedadiah took a side. With my own opinions about homosexuality in limbo, I was being asked to play someone who chose to believe in it, who was forced to make a decision.
So I did.
And the truth is, I can’t any longer justify what I believed about being gay. Like so many things, what I had believed simply didn’t make sense in college, in this bristling new world. And in reality, I had known this for some time–I just had never been able to admit it.
But Jedadiah is me. Jedadiah is my coming out.
I am a straight man who thought that homosexuality was wrong. Now, after Jedadiah, I am a straight man who thinks that his gay friends and his gay professors are not so different from himself.
END OF PLAY
It is now 6:48 P.M., Thursday, March 31. I can hear Kimi yelling her email from the next room. It is time for rehearsal now. I’ll see you all in a minute.