Getting Ready

Spencer

In preparation for the production, we’re meeting for two and a half hours each week to discuss all of Jules’s findings. She’s put so much quality work into this project. If the script weren’t enough (which it is) the labor, the passion, the creativity and the funding that have gone into this definitely impress upon me how important this play is to so many people. These weekly meetings are not enough to delve deeply into this. We’ve only had a few classes so far, so I know there’s much more to do and discuss. But I’m so excited to get to work on this! This type of theater and this subject material present a challenge. The Laramie Project has been done before, plenty of times, so how we’ll present it anew intrigues me. I think it can be done. I just hope we can reach enough people with it. It means so much to me that we reach people with this. They need to hear what Laramie has to say, and they need to hear what Laramie has to say. And they need to hear what our Laramie has to say.

I’ve witnessed and experienced hate before. Homophobic, transphobic, racist, sexist, classist and ableist hate have been a part of my entire life. Society has provided them for me my entire life. They were never really taught to me by people I respected, and if they were I don’t respect them now. So it’s safe to say I don’t retain any of those hateful lessons I may have been taught. Still, as reassuring as it may be to know that I don’t harbor those feelings, I cannot forget that there are others who do. Laramie/Laramie has reminded me of this. I was talking to a friend recently about how difficult it is to understand thoughts and opinions different from one’s own. I used the example of food. “It is actually difficult for me to understand how someone can dislike the taste of a cheeseburger! I have to really step outside of myself to understand that.” Think about it. Can you yield your own mindset well enough to take on another?  Possibly one with which you disagree? It’s tough. I commented on one of Jules’s posts with a quote from the feature she embedded from ABC Nightly News with Charlie Gibson. They interviewed a man who said, “If you’ve ever called anyone a fag or a dyke…it’s in you – whatever killed Matthew.” That’s stayed with me. How can that be in other people? There’s a killing spirit in people I have met before because they feel the same way Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson did (…do?). Those are the people we have to reach. They’re the ones this production wants. At least for me.

3 thoughts on “Getting Ready

  1. Spencer–

    Thanks for the kind words. I think it’s just finally having a production of this play to work on after so many years of research/analysis of the text itself that’s making me seem like I’ve got material/resources falling out of my fingertips!

    Each time I read about a production of this play that “galvanizes” a community I’m struck by two things. 1) The relatively easy or gentle way the play avoids getting into details about very complex systems of homophobia and misogyny, asserting that those attitudes are unacceptable but also limited or out of the ordinary. 2) The undeniable chord that the piece strikes in diverse audience communities as reflective of their own (personal or community) behaviors, behaviors they wish to change. I don’t think *Laramie* just preaches to the choir; however, I also worry it doesn’t really transform deeply seated prejudices. I guess the question is whether the play gets people who need to see it into the audience and then what does it do with them *after*? By the way, I’m still looking for suggestions/advice on what *we* do with our audience pre and post-show in ways that don’t let any transformative moments slip through our fingers!

    I guess I could answer my own question in that what the play does *after* is it moves on to the next group, university, high school, regional theater and present the case to other spectators. So the fact that the play proliferates, that people continue to *want* to do it, *want* it to touch their communities, *is* how it reaches people. I still maintain my wish that it would also spawn new efforts to make theater about LGBT life that examine hate, certainly, but also love, sex, family, faith, and politics. No one text can do it all. As always, my worry is that documentary texts, with their fraught but undeniable relationship to ‘the real’, are too frequently cemented *as* history instead of a version of history, one that needs challenges of other stories, other perspectives on the same or similar points in time/documents. Along that line of thinking, what kind of documentary theater examination of hate do *you* think a company/actor should develop now in 2011? Would it be born out of an incident? A person? A community? From where should it draw its material? Interviews? Documents? Images?

    –Jules

  2. I think the best option is to draw from a community experience. Oftentimes people don’t understand the ramifications of their actions until it’s shown to them, up-close-and-personal. If a compelling story is told from an entire muted community’s perspective, chances are the in-group will know someone in that community. Their sisters, fathers, cousins, children, may be marginalized and hurting. It may not be fair or good, but I think it usually takes making it the problem of the in-group to make them care. Essentially, if it’s not directly connected to them, they don’t care. I think that’s what made Harvey Milk’s campaign and advocacy strategies so effective. He helped open people’s eyes to their relationships with oppressed persons, loved ones, and if they didn’t have that sort of connection he made friends with them (then they had a relationship with someone who was being hurt). Multimedia presentations are effective, but seeing it in moving image tends to validate it well for a society that depends on that sort of evidence. A person’s word, a decontextualized photo — these things lose their clout before an audience with access to the internet and TV news. People have to be metaphorically tied to a chair and made to watch the horrors we want them to know.

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