Laramie makes me think. The process, the script, the individuals I am privileged to be working with. It all makes me think. I left our session with Maude Mitchell last week and couldn’t get over how much my mind was blown. My brain was moving so fast, interpreting our questions, her answers, doubting her, and doubting myself for doubting her. I simply couldn’t keep up with all of my thoughts.
The more time I spend on this piece and the more time I spend with my cast mates and design team, the more I come to appreciate this fast paced artistic brain movement. I haven’t been in a play in two and a half years, haven’t been truly artistic and theatrical and expressive at all in my time at Duke and it is so exciting to add this kind of intellectual stimulation to my Duke experience. Jeff’s emphasis on making this production of Laramie inherently “ours” has caused the process to be about more than an incident or a play. It has also become an opportunity for me to challenge what I think about this school, its culture, and my growth and learning at this institution.
There are a couple of stand out experiences and interactions that I want to highlight and reflect on because I think they are testaments to the high level of creative thinking and discovery that is going on during this process. The first is an “aha” moment that I was unfortunately not witness to but have heard quite a lot about. Julian, in his individual rehearsal with Jeff and Jules, made a tremendous breakthrough with the first character he plays in the show, Sergeant Hing. Instead of allowing Sergeant Hing to be a passive character, reflecting on his town, Jeff encouraged Julian to up the stakes and choose to answer the heated question “How could you possibly live in a place like this?” instead of a passive question “What’s it like living in Laramie?” This breakthrough has become the prototype that we are all striving for with each and every one of our characters. Asking the right question seems to be the key to unlocking these people that we so desperately want to get to know and represent and eventually share with an audience.
The second is Spencer’s question from our session with Maude. He asked her if she would mind taking the copy of the script and looking through it, reacting honestly to the experience of holding it in her hands and reading the words after so many years away from the project. His question, or request rather, was different and imaginative and added a wonderful sense of theatricality to our session. Maude had said that she hated “table work” and much preferred to figure out her characters by actively doing. Spencer’s question allowed her to share with us in that active avenue that she artistically prefers, by showing us instead of just telling us how she feels about her involvement with Moises and The Laramie Project.
Our trip to Angels in America yesterday was particularly exciting to me because it provided the cast with an opportunity to get to know each other on a more personal level. Since one of the characters that we take on in this play is going to be a version of ourselves, a Duke student of some sort, I took the marathon show, car-rides, intermissions, and dinner breaks as opportunities for a special kind of character work and cast bonding. I discussed Duke-Durham relations with Summer and talked about learning Chinese with Andy. Jacob and I whispered throughout Perestroika about how much we wanted to own each and every piece of Belize’s wardrobe. And Kimi, Spencer, Jeremy and I rocked out to top 40 songs on the ride back to campus, critiquing the use of auto-tune and the need for more uplifting songs like “Just the Way You Are” on the radio. I appreciate each and every one of these interactions and growing friendships and am looking forward to getting to know The Laramie Project characters and team members further as the process continues.