I play three main characters in The Laramie Project: Stephen Belber, Doc O’Connor, and Matt Galloway. Differentiating between the three and discovering their separate and unique identities has been the major challenge of the show for me. At first I found the characters to be quite shallow, both in terms of the fact we know little really about them and spend little real time with any one character and because Galloway and O’Connor are the two characters that seem to most easily lend themselves to becoming caricatures of real human beings. The big thing I have struggled with and continue to struggle with is finding the meat in what little text Kaufman threw us for each of my three characters.
Doc jumps out at you. He’s aggressive. He has a disarming charm, but it has a disturbing tinge to it. I think have discovered an arc to his character, at least the arc that Kaufman creates out of the transcripts of the real Doc’s ramblings. To me, Doc’s arc seems a lot like the arc of the town of Laramie itself. In his first monologues he defends the town’s exceptionalism as well as mourns its changing character (“They used to carry cattle…them trains. Now all they carry is diapers and cars.”). He then reveals a sort of ambivalent “live and let live” attitude towards Matthew and gays in general. He also attempts to deflect the idea that the murder was a hate crime in his “Who’s getting what?” monologue by arguing that homosexuality is present and tolerated (in a way) in Wyoming. In Act II, Doc embodies the town’s besiegement at the hands of the media in his “hard copy” line. At the end of the second act he reveals a softened attitude towards Matthew. No doubt he joined the rest of the world in hoping that Matt would survive. At the end of the act Doc tries to find beauty in the awful site of the fence, a beauty he connects back to Laramie—a town that both he and Matt Shepard found beautiful.
For the playwright in me, the Galloway character seems to take on the role of the bystander that failed to act. Galloway reveals himself to be enormously perceptive and yet he fails to “notice” what he remembered in his re-tellings so well, that “these guys shouldn’ta been talking to this guy.” Making Galloway (and Doc) not a two-dimensional character has been a great challenge for me. But I think I have made some progress by focusing on Galloway’s conflicting attitudes towards the situation. He deflects responsibility at times and at other times seems to hold himself overly responsible for the events of that night. One thing that I have done that I think has been helpful as well is that I think that there are two Galloways. The Galloway of the second Act and the Galloway character that Galloway plays in Act I and Act III. As an actor, I find this dual identity fascinating and I think it explains why his monologue in Act III is in the play.