I sit here with a full head and an empty page, unsure of what I want to say here; unsure of how brave and honest I want to be in this posting. The Laramie Project has come so far in the past month that it hardly resembles the play it once was. As Jeff tells us every night, it has taken a life of its own. It is a story that belongs to us, and it really does. While most of our struggles do not replicate those of our characters, I think each person in the cast has had a personal arc that really draw us together in the play. Or maybe I am just projecting. Whatever. All I can really tell you is my story, anyway.
I am very excited to have an audience. We reached the point where everyone knows their lines, where each person really gets a chance to hone his or her acting skills. We reached that, passed it, and I feel that if we were here much longer, we would stagnate. It’s time for us to share the story that we have been working on. We have to give Laramie away to an audience. They must see the Matthew Shepard story from our point of view, from our eyes that have been working with the script and the people for several months now. We will hand it to them and see what happens. I am excited to see the emotion come back to life through them, to see each scene through the eyes of someone to whom this is all new.
This play has forced me to make decisions about things. I had always been content to say “I don’t know” when it comes to the death penalty. But after twenty times watching the scene where Laramie residents discuss their opinions on the matter, I realize I do have an opinion. It started as just a tiny wiggling feeling while I was watching that part of the show, but eventually I found myself nodding along with the residents I agree with. It came as somewhat of a surprise to me; as a moderate American, it is perfectly acceptable for me to have undefined opinions on political matters. But that’s not how I want to be.
I don’t know what it’s like to be gay or lesbian in this world. Mentally, I have always known this that. But there is a whole depth of struggle and pain that I didn’t even realize is present; that who you are as a person may cause others to scorn you. That’s something I can’t grasp, but at least now I know I can’t. During a rehearsal, one of my fellow cast members turned to me and said something along the lines of “the word tolerance is such crap.” I reeled. Tolerance to me was a word that everyone strives for, for everyone to be happy and la de dah. But tolerance is not that. Tolerance means you still dislike someone, but you put up with them because you have to. Tolerance is such crap.
Now to the meat of the issue. This is hard for me to say. I was raised in a religious household, and still have strong ties to the church. If you are not aware, the gay issue is kind of a big deal right now in that sphere, trying to decide who has what rights within the church. It’s easy to shrug your shoulders when people ask what you think, and not have a fully formed opinion. Cuz you know, in a religious light homosexuality is wrong, but how can that be true when I have seen friends struggling for years because they don’t want to admit to themselves or their Catholic family their own feelings? Or when you see more love in a homosexual relationship than you have in many heterosexual relationships? And I was proud of myself, you know, for acting in a play and advocating rights that I was pretty sure I believed in. Then there’s that line at the end of the play. “How did I ever let that stuff make me think that you were different from me?” And I was very… struck. Because I think that at the heart of it, I might have thought that way at points in my life. That it’s only working so closely with this play that I know without a doubt there’s not an ounce of difference between you and me. That maybe I was Jedediah Schultz at the beginning of the play. I’ve always loved my gay friends for who they are. But this play has just sort of cast things in a new light, or at least pointed out inconsistencies in my thought processes. My first thought is thank God that I got to act in this play and learn to love in a new way. And my second thought was thank you Matthew.
It’s incredible how many times you can watch a show and still learn something new each time. We’ve read and rehearsed this show and unbelievable amount of times—and yet, I notice something new almost every run. A couple things I’ve noticed in the past few rehearsals:
Rebecca Hilliker’s line—“You know, I really love my students because they are free thinkers. And you may not like what they have to say, and you may not like their opinions…but they are honest and they’re truthful—so there’s an excitement here…I’d rather have opinions that I don’t like—and have that dynamic in education.”
It’s important that she has this view of her students and appreciates this quality. This is such a crucial part of college—meeting people from different worlds with various lifestyles, customs, and ideas. You encounter some pretty remarkable students in college with pretty remarkable stories and ideas. I love college because I’m surrounded by people who are, typically, just as engaged as I am—engaged in thought and change; engaged in art, or politics, or human rights. I’m surrounded by people who are engaged in life and are “free thinkers.” People here have their own grounded ideas and are willing to challenge your ideas and reconsider theirs. This is monumental in just growing and becoming a better you, defining and redefining your ideas.
I wish more people had Rebecca’s take on education and just…life. She realizes that it’s not necessarily about changing others’ opinions, but creating this active dialogue where we all can share our ideas and thoughts, developing a sort of shared expression and learning. We’ve all met those people or have had those teachers that just want to tell you something instead of having a discussion. A discussion is so much more dynamic, so much more fulfilling. They follow the “my way or the highway” mentality that is so one-dimensional and limiting. There exists a lack of open-mindedness.
She also mentions that her students are honest and truthful, and that’s how we should all strive to be. I often become so wrapped up in what everyone else is doing or what is expected of me that I’m not truthful to what I should be doing or perhaps to myself. My responses in class or my actions in a particular situation may not be honest or genuine because of outside circumstances, how I think I’ll be perceived, or because of the consequences. I really think that this play tries to do just that—be honest and truthful. We’ve seen from a formal Tectonic Theater member how a bias may taint this truth and honestly, but it does strive to be so by providing multiple perspectives and prodding the audience to come to their own conclusion. I think that our production is true and honest. Each of the characters on that stage is honest and true in their gestures, their tone, and their thoughts. That’s what makes this production so amazing—that’s what’s kept me engaged.
Enter your password to view comments.