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Crimson Masque to present 'The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later'

Nick Munson
02/20/2012
A character played by Monmouth College student Cassie Burton (left) of Taylorville is interviewed by characters played by students Ivy Bekker of Bloomington and Mike Bennett of Monmouth during a scene from “The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later.” The Monmouth College Crimson Masque production will be staged March 1 – 4 in the college’s WIT Theatre, which is located on the lower level of the Haldeman-Thiessen Science Center.
Monmouth College’s Crimson Masque will present “The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later (An Epilogue),” March 1 – 4.

Performances will be March 1 – 3 at 7:30 p.m. and March 4 at 2 p.m. in the college’s WIT Studio Theater in the basement of the Haldeman-Thiessen Science Center.

Tickets are $6 for adults; $5 for other students and senior citizens; and $4 for MC students, faculty and staff. They may be reserved by calling 309-457-2104 or by e-mailing theater@monm.edu.

In 1998, Matthew Shepard, a gay college student, was found beaten to the brink of death and tied to a fence in Laramie, Wyo. Shepard had been attacked by two boys after leaving a bar. By the next day, Shepard’s attack and the town of Laramie had become the focus of international news. Shepard died from his injuries a few days later.

A month later, members of the Tectonic Theater Project traveled to Laramie and conducted some 200 interviews over the next two years. The play that resulted, “The Laramie Project,” was compiled from those conversations.

The “Ten Years Later” epilogue focuses on the long-term effects of Shepard’s murder on the town of Laramie. It explores how the town has changed and how the murder continues to reverberate in the community.

The cast consists of 12 students, many of whom are veterans to the Monmouth College stage. They include Ivy Bekker, Mike Bennett, Cassie Burton, Kayla Corzine, Nick Dadds, Marisa Franks, Courtney Jonsson, Cameron Line, Joy Meyer, Michael Miller, Anthony Occhipinti and Jason Roepke. Each student will play multiple roles portraying the residents of Laramie.

Student director Abigail Davis, a senior from Springfield, believes the play is important for people to see.

“I want the community as a whole to be able to learn from the events and to be able to take something away from the show,” she said. “It could be about acceptance and the toleration of those that are different or about learning how we as a people have the power to write our own history and make a difference.”

Alishia Allander-Zivic, a visiting professor on MC’s theatre faculty, will serve as the scene designer.

The campus community is also involved in events related to the production. Lauryn Pearson, a senior from Galesburg, learned about the Shepard case in her Communication and Criticism class, and the story moved her to do something for the show. She plans to create a series of life-sized Action Angels, representing the Action Angels who dressed as angels and stood between the protestors at the courthouse and the people attending the trials of Shepard’s killers.

The producers of Fusion, a campus television program, will create two short documentaries about the show. The first documentary will be a pre-show piece that will focus on why the cast chose to get involved with the production and the process of putting the show together. The second documentary will focus on showing the production’s interdisciplinary aspects. The producers hope to demonstrate the benefits of a liberal arts education and its unique ability to combine academic disciplines to produce a more far-reaching project.

Three events will round out the week and provide the audience with the opportunity to discuss the issues within the production. The audience is invited to join the cast and crew on opening night for a post-show Q&A. Prior to the March 2 performance, a director’s roundtable will be held at 6 p.m. in The Underground, which is located on the lower level of Grier Hall. The director will discuss the choice, direction, issues and relevance of the production. Following the March 4 matinee, the audience is invited join a talkback session with faculty from MC’s departments of history, philosophy and religious studies, education and political science.