I am about to graduate. Wow.
It’s been a little over a week since The Laramie Project closed. I had the staged reading of Dead White Men, my senior distinction project, the weekend after Laramie closed so now I am done with theater at Duke. It’s been a wonderful ride and now it’s over. It feels a lot like the last moment (“Moment: Departure”) of Laramie. Saying “Goodbye” after you’ve been at a place for a long time is hard, really hard. But Laramie was a nice show to end things with. It reaffirmed for me why I love theater—because it is important as well as powerful—and served to further confuse me about what I want to do with my life…because I love the stage, I really do. I have two majors at Duke: theater studies and political science. I always felt like the later was my “primary” major, the one that was more serious and “academic.” Theater was something that rejuvenated me, but it wasn’t something one could do after college…or is it? For a long time, it was clear to me what direction I would be heading in. I wanted to do something “important” and it was clear to me what major was the right one for that goal. But I’m not sure anymore. Maybe if I want to do something “important,” theater is the perfect medium for me to do it in. Maybe, I don’t know. It’s weird man, it’s so weird.
Our production of The Laramie Project was powerful and I am proud to have been a part of it. We moved people and each other in ways I did not anticipate. We created a community for ourselves as well as one on stage that has had deeper ramifications than I could have initially imagined. I must confess that for many months I found the text to be tiresome. I still do to an extent. I think Kaufman crafted a safe text. One that avoided important issues like love and sex. Rather than rejecting the “live and let live” mantra, Kaufman merely polishes it and give it a more sophisticated coat of paint. Matthew Shepard is just a name in the script. He is an abstraction, he does not seem real. This I think makes the play a weaker piece, but one that is easier in some ways to digest and perform. That said, the run of the show gave me a new perspective on the play that has allowed me to appreciate it much more than I had prior to the arrival of the audience. The inclusion of the audience in our production transformed what I think is a deeply-flawed script into a rich conversation that enveloped the spectator completely. Being able to see the audience react to moments in the play reminded me of the emotional power those moments had on me when I first heard them and renewed a sense of urgency for me in my performance.
It has been a great honor to be part of The Laramie Project with this incredible cast and crew. Jeff and Jules, you are both so amazing. I am so grateful to have gotten a chance to work with you both before I leave Duke. I am going to stop before I get emotional (I have been told that that would be out of character by some) and simply say “Now, you take care. I love you honey.”