The Laramie Project
“Did you know what the story was when you arrived in Laramie?” “How did you decide which characters to keep and which to cut?” “Do you know of anyone who saw the play who was homophobic, and it changed their minds?”
These are just some of the questions members of John Jay Theatre Workshop asked writer and actor Amanda Gronich, one of the theater artists who traveled to Wyoming and co-created “The Laramie Project”— a play about the 1998 murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard.
John Jay Theater Workshop's production of “The Laramie Project” is January 21, 22 and 23. The show is suitable for ages 14 and over.
There's the same excitement amongst the cast and crew as is felt each year prior to a show. But, because of COVID, things are also very different. The play will be prerecorded on Zoom and available to view on show dates. The nineteen actors and two production assistants meet online each day after school with Director Bill Friedman. Because the costume room is closed and the props room off-limits, students are designing their own sets and costumes based on what they have at home.
“Meeting Amanda Gronich was a game-changer for the students,” said Assistant Director Amanda Urban, who set up the discussion with Gronich. “They realized that they are connected to something bigger.”
The scriptwriter and actor was warm, open and funny in describing what it felt like for a group of New York theater people to land in Laramie and start asking total strangers questions. She brought students inside the craft of non-fiction storytelling—the topic she now teaches at City College New York. She also shared the pride she and her colleagues felt as “The Laramie Project” brought attention to the lack of hate crime laws in various states including Wyoming.
“There’s no question in my mind that ‘The Laramie Project’ expanded people’s minds,” said Gronich. “The play is still getting performed because it still needs to. We always hope that the era will dawn when a student will pick up ‘The Laramie Project’ and say, ‘what’s a hate crime?’ I’m sad to say that this play is still relevant. We hope the day will dawn when it will be a curiosity."
“It is awesome that you are doing this in the middle of a pandemic,” Gronich said to the students with a big encouraging smile. “These stories happened in the world and you are bringing them into people’s consciousness in 2021 which is a challenging time in its own right. It’s really relevant and it’s really worth doing. I’m behind you.”