Life after Laramie

While the curtain came down on our production many months ago, and our cast members have moved on to new projects. Recent graduate Summer Puente (Romaine Patterson) has been capturing Occupy Durham events with her camera lens. Recent graduate Ben “Mr. Bergmann” Bergmann (Doc O’Connor) is chronicling the wisdom of school children in Houston, TX where he is currently a fifth-grade teacher. Sophomore Julian Spector (Father Roger) is performing Health & Science editorial & writing duties for Duke’s student newspaper, The Chronicle.  Seniors Afftene Taylor (Marge Murray), Kimi Goffe (Zubaida Ula) and Junior Naomi Reimer (Catherine Connolly) are hard at work collecting material for and casting the 2012 incarnation of The Me Too Monologues. Torry, Jenny & myself see each other regularly at rehearsals for A Doll’s House (and wouldn’t you know, that show has a blog too!) And from December 1-17, Sophmores Andy Chu (Jedidiah Schultz) and Jacob Tobia (Denis Shepard) will be appearing together again, under Jeff’s direction, in Manbites Dog Theater’s regional premiere of A. Rey Pamatmat’s story of three abandoned teenagers making a live together, Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them.

Things in the state move on as well. As I’ve mentioned before, there has been a push for an anti-LGBT amendment to the NC constitution in the guise of “defense of marriage” language.  In September 2011, the North Carolina Assembly, now controlled by Republicans for the first time since Reconstruction, passed the amendment, which moved to a floor vote after 7 years of being stymied in committee by Democratic lawmakers. The legislation flew through the approval process, without public debate, by more than the 2/3rds margin needed in the House but by only 1 vote in the Senate (some Democrats in both bodies did sign on in support). This move means that the amendment’s fate will be decided by voters on the May 8, 2012 primary ballot. For information about the impact of this legislation on same-sex citizens of NC and for ways to get involved in efforts to defeat its passage, visit Equality NC.

Two weeks after the amendment’s passage in the Assembly, Jacob Tobia, Laramie cast member and native North Carolinian, penned an open letter to his legislature, the same body where he served as a Senate page and lobbied vigorously for anti-bullying legislation, which did squeak by for passage (by 1 vote in the House) in 2009. Its passage was so close because it included language of protection for LGBT students. As is his style, Jacob’s letter was both eloquent and passionate, insistent yet respectful. His piece was picked up by LGBT blogger Pam Spaulding, who served as a post-show discussant for one of our productions of Laramie. You can read the letter in its entirety here, but I want to quote just a little snippet,

When you signed into law a referendum putting my minority rights to a majority vote, you erased me from your memory. When you decided that my right to one day marry the love of my life was less important than your own political goals, you showed me that you don’t remember me at all. Two weeks ago, when you decided to denigrate my identity in our state’s founding document, when you decided to slander my pride and self-esteem in the most permanent, public way possible, you denied that we ever met. Last week, while you were on the house and senate floors rejecting my worth as a citizen and trampling on my human dignity, I was crying in the LGBT Center at Duke, lamenting the fact that you can’t even remember my face.

I wish I could insure, for Jacob, for myself, for all LGBT North Carolinians, that we will buck the national trend and the truth about the discrimination at the heart of this amendment will rally citizens to beat back its passage. Such an outcome will be difficult if not impossible to achieve.

At times like these it is sometimes difficult to see how a theater production that takes place on a set stage for a set time and then closes/disappears can significantly influence larger social/civic actions. However, in an interview with our producer Miriam Sauls, Jacob reminds me to see through my despair and see the things that theater makes possible. Since he says it so well, I’ll leave the last words to him.

One thought on “Life after Laramie

  1. Wonderful, Jacob. It is so wonderful to see you talking about the very special, transforming effect of theater on your life as a student. Thanks to Jules for curating a stunning wordpress site which will now be a very special part of our history.

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