I have a special connection to the Laramie Project. When I was younger and question my own sexuality, a came across the film version in HBO. This was my first interaction with the LGBT world. In fact, this was when I first learned that there was a word for what I was: homosexual… gay… or as some in Laramie would say, a “fag”.
Needless to say, the story of Matthew Shepard’s beating scared the crap out of me. I knew right then and there that there was absolutely no way I could come out. Yet, in spite of this newly instill fear, I did feel a sense of relief that I had finally figured out what I was.
Now, nearly 9 years later, I find myself again relying on the Laramie Project for self-discovery. See, I was once very into the arts; drawing, clay-making, a little painting, writing, and yes, even acting. Following my lead, my younger sister took up residence within the arts as well, and yes, she had a great talent for it. On a regular basis, I was told how great my sister was… why couldn’t I live up to her work? The sad thing is that I believed these critics. I let it discourage me. A play in 6th grade would mark my last foray in the theater.
I harbored a grudge against my sister, and, more importantly, the arts that last up until even a couple of months ago. That was when I heard about the Laramie Project being produced at Duke, and once again, that special connection to the play called out to me. Without even a thought at my bitterness, I rushed to sign up to be a part of the production. And it has been the best decision I have ever made.
I soon realized that my grudge was completely unfounded. I discover that I was in my head. That it was I who was letting my critics’ words get to me. That it is was I who abdicated such an essential part of my being. I am an assistant stage manager in this production, and in this capacity, I have had access to many parts of the show. I have sat in on individual rehearsals. I even have cameos on the stage with the actors. I leave rehearsals feeling… inspired. I feel like once again the Laramie Project is helping me discover who I truly am. I share the same sense of awe that Jedidiah Schultz has when audition for Angels in America.
One thought on “Laramie as Therapy?”
OK. I’m going to open with a reading suggestion, based on your description of your “competition” with your sister: David Sedaris’ “Twelve Moments in the Life of the Artist” in his 2001 collection *Me Talk Pretty One Day*. It describes his own battles with wanting to be an artist like his sister, Gretchen, to whom fine art came so effortlessly. It’s even funnier considering that he’s going through his struggles in nearby Raleigh, where he spend most of his adolescence and early adulthood. Also, he’s making this journey (eventually realizing that his ‘art’ is writing vs. drawing, sculpture, or even acting) while negotiating the coming out process. It’s a hilarious read, even funnier if you can get an audiobook version and hear him read it.
I love that your participation in the show has reawakened or reaffirmed the play’s connection to your own personal journey. It’s a particular power of this piece but also a power of theater that isn’t the unique domain of the actors. Of course, the ASMs are doing more performing than you all might have initially envisioned, but I’m so happy to hear it’s fun and fulfilling. Ultimately, seeing you both on stage brings a sense of the theater’s inner workings out into the light. It also asserts that all theater, even documentary theater, offers a consciously constructed reality that can still be emotionally resonant, politically active, and true.