When a small town comes face to face with murder, everybody has a tale to tell.

In October of 1998, a twenty-one year old student at the University of Wyoming was kidnapped, severely beaten and left to die, tied to a fence on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming. His name was Matthew Shepard, and he was the victim of this assault because he was gay. Moisés Kaufman and fellow members of the Tectonic Theater Project made six trips to Laramie over the course of a year and a half in the aftermath of the beating and during the trial of the two young men accused of killing Shepard. During theses visits, the Tectonic Theater Project conducted more than 200 interviews with the people of the town. Some people interviewed were directly connected to the case and others were citizens of Laramie. The Laramie Project chronicles the town of Laramie in the year after the murder.
 
Dandenong Theatre Co. proudly presents The Laramie project as directed by Kym Davies. I spoke with Kym about her journey through this amazing tale – as hate is redefined by courage and beauty.
 
The Laramie Project is a powerful story which reveals the horrendous and brutal bashing of a young gay man in Laramie Wyoming – can you talk about what drew you to this play?
 
The powerful story, the absolute brilliance of the writing and  the challenge as a Director and a human being to bring this to an audience. I feel personally connected to Matthew Shepard. Its hard to explain, but I think it is about his straight forward nature and courage, mixed with absolute vulnerability. He is a flawed person that so beautifully reveals the human condition. Morals vs Ethics. The concept of truth and theatre both being subjective to me is an amazing concept to discuss at any level. This is all about perspective and opinion, and gives me hope that beauty and courage will triumph every time.
 
 Do you believe this play will resonate with an Australian audience and what is your hope that the audience takes with them after viewing it?
 
This is a story and a theatrical event about an American town, but it could be any town, anywhere. Unfortunately hate is universal, but so is love and courage..
 
 How satisfying is it for you to be directing this play?
 
I will let you know when its finished.. But I have experienced some of the most incredible moments with the performers during rehearsal, These actors are as good as any I have ever seen in any format. Their commitment, raw talent and hard work has been astounding. I have also as a Director experienced, doubt, fear, and complete frustration. I have been reminded of the value of theatre and the importance of art in developing our own ideas and culture.
 
 Please explain your audition process for this one given that each actor is responsible for 8 or more characters?
 
We held a group audition that mixed and matched character and actors, chemistry and ideas. The actors were also required to present a monologue in the group environment. This resulted in some of the most amazing monologues I have ever seen during an audition process. The auditions were an incredible theatre experience all on there own.
 
 This play is a very large undertaking in many ways, can you isolate any challenges you have found to date?
 
The sheer weight of the dialogue, the difficulty in staging this successfully due to the many interchanging ‘moments’, and the balance required in the emotional content. The actors have to really make themselves emotionally vulnerable and this can be very difficult to let go of.
 
Personally I have found this emotionally challenging on a level I can barely explain. The themes run parallel to many personal challenges I have faced. Concepts of violent trauma, absolute bereft grief, perspectives of truth, unqualified hate and the power of love and beauty are re-occurring themes in my life and in my artistic work. Being a parent of a beautiful complex teenager, this play and this story unearths a fear of loss that is inescapable.
 
"Go home give your kids and hug and don’t let a day go by without telling them that you love them"
 
 Comparative to other plays you have directed, is there  a notion of a greater responsibility to do better with this play?
 
Yes and no. I feel a huge level of responsibility with all the work I do. But I think it is important, because it is about real people, that it is treated with a sensitive nature and delivered with the purest intent.
 
Most who have directed this play have described it as a labour of love. Is that also true for you?
 
Love, hate, grief, fear, anxiety, burden and complete amazement..
 
It is a VDL entry play. How was that decision made?
 
Dimboola, our original planned entry would not qualify due to the musical content, we then decided to do Laramie Project as our second show and from there it was easy..
 
 How difficult do you believe it will be to let go of this project once the final night arrives? Why?
 
Easy, because of how challenging and emotionally exhausting it can be, but hard because of the amazing performances from the actors, and crew, my friends, and especially because of Matthew Shepard. I feel like I know him..
 
The Laramie Project
Directed by Kym Davies.
Venue: Hallam Community Theatre
Hallam Senior College, Frawley Rd., Hallam
Bookings – 1300 922 358 or  online
 www.dandenongtheatre.org.au
Tickets: $27.50
Performance Dates
Evening Performances – 8pm
Friday, 15 October
Saturday, 16 October
Friday, 22 October
Saturday, 23 October
Thursday, 28th October
Friday, 29 October
Saturday, 30 October
 
Matinee Performance – 2pm
Saturday 23rd October

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