“And it was so good to be with people who felt like shit.”

The Laramie moments are microcosms of all of our lives. Amongst the cast, we joke constantly that there is literally a line from the play that can go with any conversation. But today, the truth of this play was felt by many of us. Rehearsal went great, but also went beyond just smoothing out the transitions and laughing when our blocking went awry.

A lot of us agreed that the emotion started mounting when we got to the end of Act II. MOMENT: HOMECOMING. Seeing the transformation of the character of Harry Woods has been incredible. The tiny gestures and intonations in Spencer’s voice and movement is a beautiful thing to watch.

The moments move the play along so fast that I hardly have time to see with the rapid changes of emotion. Then suddenly, we’re at the end of the act, MOMENT: THAT NIGHT. I always know it’s coming but it seems like every time Cameron reads Rulon Stacey and announces the death of Matthew Shepard, it hurts so much more. When the act ends, we all exit. Usually wait of stage until Don tells us to check the presetting of our costumes for the final act.

But today was so different for so many of us. I know that at least Spencer, Jacob and I left the stage sobbing. Crumpled into little crying queer babies. Just uncontrollable broken people. The cast on that side of the stage circled up and we started talking about our parents’ fear for our safety and various coming out stories. The scene between Marge (Afftene) and Reggie (Emma) shows another intense parent-child interaction that made a lot of us think about our families.

Throughout this play, the cast has gotten incredibly close, and I think we’re understanding more and more what’s at stake. Naomi and I ended up talking for two and a half hours after rehearsal. This is our lives. All of these relationships and connections we’re building is going to show through our telling of the Matthew Shepard story.

I think we’re learning more about each other’s experiences with the deaths of friends, hate and violence that we’ve felt, fear and rage, loved ones with HIV and AIDS, coming out, being allies, and so much more. Today I am so grateful for being part of this cast and the amazing people I am learning more about. People who are allowing me to take my own walls down and share my own secrets. People who, a few months ago I had never seen before, are holding me as I sob backstage or telling me their own secrets.

For all the critiques that Laramie has gotten in our class meetings and discussions, the Project for me has been one of strength through my own losses, and I am honored to feel this love. I know that when we open this play, everyone will see these amazing bonds we’ve forged.

-Summer Puente, Saturday rehearsal March 26th

2 thoughts on ““And it was so good to be with people who felt like shit.”

  1. Summer —

    This is both gratifying and heart-wrenching to read. What a wonderful line to borrow for your title. I’m ever amazed by the power of this play to move people — those who work on it and those who watch it — in such amazing ways. It’s a strange ebb and flow of the rehearsal process to start in a place where the play is so affecting as we do our initial read-throughs and then, in the process of table-work, when we pick things apart and analyze from so many directions, the power is damped (a bit) by our interrogation process. Then the addition of costumes and tech pulls us further away from being in the “moment” because the move-in process is so hectic. Now that the stuff is being incorporated, allowing you all to more fully embody your characters, that affective quality of the work is seeping back up to the surface. And, with that, comes emotion. There is something so powerful about marking someone else’s loss with your own presence, it ties you back, as you’ve observed, to your own losses in way that are profound and personal. I wonder if you all think/want to do something commemorative regarding this experience (beyond the act of the performances themselves). How do you want to mark or make something beyond the here and now?

    Today I’ve been constructing a timeline of Matthew’s life and death for the program and, in doing so, I’ve been consulting Romaine’s memoir. It might be too much for you to take in with everything else but if you’ve not glanced through it I’m happy to lend my copy. There’s a lot more to her life than just her relationship with Matthew and her activism after his death — her own complicated coming out story, her beloved brother Michael’s death from AIDS — and it is even more bracing to hear her narrate beyond the bounds of the Laramie script. It’s yet another reminder of just how many stories are being told even as a documentary tale puts one event at its center. I can’t think of a better person to hold these particular constellations of characters, with Romaine at the center, than you.

    –Jules

  2. Summer,
    I am so happy that the experience has been a positive one for you. This may be a foolish notion, but i think theater can be cathartic. I love to laugh openly and I’ve learned not to be ashamed of crying openly when I am moved in the theater. Ed and I often take each others hand during a performance, reminding each other that we are not alone experiencing this.

    I feel that crying and laughing and allowing yourself to be enveloped in a piece of theater both on stage and when you are watching helps you to work out the things that our everyday lives attempt to suppress.

    In the end it is the hard work that everyone has been doing that has made a difference. Everyone is starting to take ownership and earning each moment they are on stage. That can be very compelling. Thanks for all your hard work. Each of your characters is filled with a strength and vulnerability that makes me drawn to their stories.

    Stay focused on the objective of each character (as my Dad used to say during my short career in little league: “Keep your eye on the ball.”) As you become more confident in each moment, keep returning to the ideas of ARTICULATION and SUPPORT so that your work is vibrantly present in the space. You’ve done the homework and made fine choices, now be sure that it gets shared in a way that reaches our audiences.

    It has been great to get to know you and I have great respect for you. Every act of theater is political and the passion that is a part of who you are comes through in every character you play.

    Best- Jeffrey

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