Calling all Theater companies and performers!

Open Call to Theater companies, performers, researchers:
I would like to hear other voices besides my own on this blog. If you'd like to write about your TLP experiences here, e-mail them to me and I'll put them up.
Topics can include dramaturgy to staging to personal responses to the play. Anything goes!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Freezing over in Hades

Torchbearer in the SnowWell, we were warned when the New Orleans Saints made it to the Super Bowl that Hades must have frozen over.  Well, sure enough, it's happened!  We had a rather severe storm blow over our heads here in Appalachia last weekend, and I was treated to a wonderful, sloppy, wet weekend with four inches of snow.  So, to break up the Wyoming monotony a little, I went out with my camera and got a few pictures of a real winter day in the American South for you.

I had an absolute riot-- there were undergraduates everywhere doing everything from building snowmen in the quad to snowball fights to sledding down the main hill on our campus on cardboard and storage box lids.  Most of the town had to shut down for the weekend due to the slippery conditions, which meant, as a Wyoming driver, I had the roads almost entirely to myself. 

The statue you see here at the left  is the campus's main symbol, called the Torchbearer, ablaze and surrounded by snow. The heat from the torch kept the snow from building up on the statue, but it also meant that he had a drippy nose for most of the afternoon. 

Frosted Flowers
This is a picture taken outside my college's library of the snow on a few early-blooming flowers.  It was a little sad this morning-- the temperature was below freezing last night, and most of the flowers were already frost-struck and turning brown.

Ayers Hall in the Snow

Things were far from business as usual up at the main part of campus. Our "Old Main," if you will, pictured here, is still under renovations and currently sits empty. Nevertheless, perched on top the highest hill downtown and surrounded by snow, she makes for a lovely sight.
Sledding on "The Hill"At the base of "The Hill," as we call it, other shenanigans were popping up.  A small group of students were sledding down the hill probably for the first time in several years.  One or two people, like these girls, had an honest-to-goodness plastic sled to running down the hill.  Others were grabbing construction debris from the renovation project-- like steel signs and industrial cardboard-- and running down the hill on them at breakneck speed, dumping themselves right in the middle of a bus lane (which, naturally, wasn't running.)  I didn't have a sled, but I had a lot of fun watching anyhow!  

So, that's how we all spent our weekend here in the South.  If you click on any of the images, you'll be directed to my Flickr photostream where you can see the other pictures I took.  As for me, now I'm crossing my fingers, hoping that the Saints win the Super Bowl-- I figure that has to be worth at least a foot of good, heavy snowfall, wouldn't you?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Shepard and TLP Reporting from the "Advocate"

For obvious reasons, the national magazine The Advocate was particularly interested in the Shepard story; they followed it longer and more thoroughly than most of the national media, and the quality of the coverage, from what I can tell, it a lot better than a lot of the other slash-and-type reporting that came out during the trials. Interviews with LGBT locals are also a lot more detailed and give more background information-- plus, they revisited the town periodically to get first-hand reports. Issue 796 has the most information if you need to get just one issue. 

For those that are interested, here is a list of some of the Advocate's best articles on the event.  Unfortunately, their online archive only goes as far back as 2008, so if you want to get these you'll need to find a source.  The Advocate is indexed by Academic Search Premier and Gale Cengage Academic OneFile if you have school access.
  • "Back to Laramie." Advocate 1031 (2009): 71-74.  [About TLP: 10 Years Later]
  • Martin, Michael. "Remembering Matthew." Advocate 1017 (2008): 28-35.  
  • "Revisiting Laramie." Advocate 899 (2003): 31.  [Interviews w/ principal people 5 years later]
  • Gross, Michael Joseph. "Pain and Prominence." Advocate 899 (2003): 26.   [Judy Shepard]
  • Vilanch, Bruce. "Hallowed Ground." Advocate 815 (2000): 47.   [The Fence]
  • Curtis, Phil. "More Than a Verdict." Advocate 802/803 (2000): 34.  [Sentencing; M&H's future as prisoners]
  • Curtis, Phil. "A Town Reflects on Itself." Advocate 796 (1999): 44.  [Interviews with friends]
  • Wieder, Judy. "The Shepard Family Heals." Advocate 796 (1999): 38.
  • Bertrand, Stephen J. "Matthew Shepard One Year Later." Advocate 796 (1999): 36.
  • Barrett, Jon. "The Lost Brother." Advocate 773 (1998): 26-30. [Interviews]

Friday, January 22, 2010

Fences, cont.: Memory, Tragedy and Entropy

I can't really explain my feelings when I found out.  I saw in a photo essay shortly before watching Ten Years Later that the buck fence where Matt Shepard was beaten had been torn down, and I gasped.  From the picture I saw, it looks like it had been replaced with a single-rail,  low, log zipper fence just to mark the boundary, something I hadn't actually seen much out west.   It was a weird sensation; I had never specifically been out to the fence (I didn't want to be one of the gawkers) so I had no personal frame of reference.  And yet, taking it down felt like an affront, or admitting defeat, or something-- I don't know what.  All I know is that I didn't like it. 

My husband and I had a long conversation about the fence that evening when we were getting ready for bed.  When I told him about it, I was a little offended; it seemed like a deliberate attempt to efface Matt's memory from that area.  My husband, however, disagreed.  "Well, why shouldn't the landowner take down the fence?"  He asked me.  "It's his property." 
"Well, because he's just trying to forget what happened there,"  I grumbled.  "That's not right.  There are too many people trying to just forget it." 
"But when does the landowner get to move on?"  He insisted.  "He didn't have anything to do with this.  When can he stop having people show up unannounced on his property, respectfully or otherwise?  Does he ever get to stop having that crime brought to mind when he's on that property?  Does  that spot ever get to be something besides a memorial?"  I gave him a glare.   "Moving on doesn't necessarily mean forgetting," he insisted. 
I still don't know for sure what I think, but my husband has a point.   Just because the fence is gone doesn't mean that Matt's memory is lessened, and it might have honestly been necessary.  Let me see if I can explain to you why...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Online articles about TLP from American Theatre

The Theatre Communications Group has two good articles for research on The Laramie Project.  Their publication American Theatre has two good feature articles about The Laramie Project available for reading online.  One is a background piece about the process of creating the play, and the other is a short explanation by Kaufman himself.

Browse down to the May/June 2000 issue on the link above to find both articles.

Source Citation:

Kaufman, Moisés.  "Into the West: An Exploration in Form."  American Theatre May/June 2000: 17-18.

Shewey, Don.  "Town in a Mirror.American Theatre May/June 2000: 14+.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Looking at Life through Aphorisms

A fun place to visit on the Internet, I have discovered, is the blog "Out of Context," run by a fellow Blogspot blogger who goes by the name Nothing Profound.  The site is nothing but a collection of funny, quirky, and sometimes profound aphorisms that range from observations on Murphy's Law to short Nietzsche-esque quips that reveal a deep, complicated understanding of major philosophical questions.

I've heard a lot of people criticize the aphorism as a cheap, unthinking way of seeing the world, but I have to demur.  A good aphorism is a way of presenting complicated intellectual problems through the use of a single declaration that contains all its assumptions.  A really good aphorism creates a logical relationship between different ideas with grammatical constructions like parallelism or syntactic play.  A good aphorism makes you think.  Just ask King Solomon-- or William Blake.  The aphorism is a great way to start a meditation, to open up thinking-- not to shut it down.   

Anyhow, Nothing Profound has an aphorism this week that I thought I'd share with you:  

If there is anything that sums up my life at the moment, this is it.  Especially my relationship to The Laramie Project and Matt Shepard's murder.  Where does my confusion stem from, and what am I actually gaining with this inquiry?  To what extent is this search for order create, rather than alleviate my confusion?  And is invoking that sense of confusion the end I'm actually seeking, something akin to Solomon's declaration that increased wisdom leads to increased sorrow?  The more I pick apart this aphorism mentally, the more appropriate to my situation it gets, and the farther down the rabbit-hole it takes me...

Sunday, January 17, 2010


I grew up clambering over barbed wire, buck fences and snow fences as a kid, and in my childhood imagination I played favorites between them. I never liked barbed wire, first because I always ran the danger of a tri-corner rip in my jeans (and therefore my mother's wrath) every time I squeezed through them. It was an aesthetic dislike, too: barbed wire is too impersonal. It's a cheap fence, metal, thrown up and pounded in without the slightest thought other than to carve the wilderness into parcels. A forcible mark of ownership. And, it's hard to climb.
Buck fences are more conciliatory, I had always thought. They're made from the wilderness itself, more organic, lying on top of rather than punched within the ground. To me, they suggested a more symbiotic relationship between man and land, a way of showing a stretch of land as  both "home" and "habitat" at the same time.  Snow fences, however, were always my favorite because they don't actually "fence in" anything-- just long, parallel stretches of tall rails that comb the Wyoming wind to steal its snow. You climbed a snow fence just to climb, not to get anywhere.

The fences of my childhood never registered as being something worth any particular comment-- just another part of the landscape-- but living in the South has taught me to look at them differently.  For instance, it had never occurred to me that one's relationship fences might be cultural, that that relationship might need to be taught.  One of my favorite conversations so far at my new college has been trying to explain in detail how a "snow fence" works to a friend of mine from the southwest. I eventually had to resort to pictures. He was enthralled.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Some More Wyoming for your thoughts...

I've only been home in the South for a week now, and I'm already pining for the fjords, so to speak. The permanent slick of ice on the roads and dusting of snow here in Appalachia has helped quite a bit, but I find myself thumbing through my photos from break nonetheless.

So, like that awful boss who makes you sit through a Powerpoint presentation of their vacation cruise photos in a business meeting, I feel this insatiable urge to force pictures I took while I was back home on you, too.

We can psychoanalyze that impulse at a later time. (Trust me, I'm angsty and self-referential enough to do it!) But in the meantime, here's a picture from the Wind River Canyon, an impressive chasm ripped right through the middle of the largest Native American reservation in my home state. The land is joint governed by the Shoshone and Arapahoe nations.

I took this photograph about seven miles upstream from where that eagle I shared with you had been fishing on the river.   Don't get too excited about the view, however-- this is a canyon, not a mountain range.  A magpie's view of this same river would reveal a flat plain of golden, snow-dredged wheatgrass prairie as far as the eye can see on either side-- which is majestic in its own right, but not quite the same. 

In any case, I hope this view is more interesting than pictures of your boss in a Hawaiian shirt dancing in a conga line.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Links: Laramie Inside Out

One of the lesser known films about the Shepard incident and the LGBTQ community in Wyoming is Laramie Inside Out, a quite good documentary of Laramie, its people, and the protests that were going on during the trials.  I can't say as I have ever met the producer of the film (she graduated before I got to Laramie), but Beverly Seckinger is a Laramie native and filmmaker with ties to many of the same professors as I do-- particularly the Harrises, Dr. Duncan Harris of English and Dr. Janice Harris of English/Women's studies.  These two beloved members of the faculty have served as sort-of foster parents for the Honors Program students for years. 

You can find out about the film and view a synopsis of it on the film website,  If I can get up the gumption to do it (I'm still a little chicken), I might check this out from our university library and give you a review of the film later this year, when I have a little more free time.  In the meantime, I'd encourage you to do the same!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Football coach quits, pandemonium reigns... wait, what?

Not to give too much away about my location, but this was the scene at my campus last night a couple of hours after the announcement that my college's football coach was high-tailing it out of the South to take a cushy job at his old college and he was taking his entire staff (and probably most of their recruits) with him. Wait, what?

The bad news is that several hundred undergraduates took to the streets to burn their football T-shirts, some dorm furniture and a really smelly mattress. All told, I think a couple thousand students were involved at some point or another. And one girl got whacked upside the head with a thrown traffic cone-- one of the really big, heavy ones, so I'm pretty sure she has a concussion.

The good news is that apparently the kids on my campus don't really have the meanness in them (or the liquor, not sure which) to foment a full-fledged riot; mostly they just meandered around campus in flash-rave style, knocking down traffic cones and yelling football slogans. The only actual damage I saw on campus this morning was a cockeyed bus kiosk, and that's pretty fixable.

But, seriously-- I take loyalty and dedication as seriously as the next person, but what the hell are people doing initiating a full-fledged police emergency response over a guy quitting his job early and weaseling out of his contract? He sure as heck doesn't care about our college enough to stick around, so I'm pretty sure that all this didn't bother him any.

Maybe it's because I came from a state that, until recently, had one of the worst NCAA football teams in the nation so I don't understand getting that riled up about sports. But these are my students, for crying out loud-- and seeing them do something like this firsthand is just a wee bit disturbing, to be honest. I recognized a few faces in this crowd as students I have worked with as freshmen.

Yeeowch. Would somebody please give me a shot of common sense and reason? Or is that asking too much of American football fans?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Down the Rabbit-Hole: It's my memory, darn it!

So, I've been looking back on the first four parts of my personal memory this past week, ruminating on the way I've told this memory.  A few weeks ago, before the Christmas break, I checked that memory against some kind of official record (newspaper articles and my student papers) and teased out a few inaccuracies in my personal memory.  I also gave a few suggestions as to why some of those inaccuracies probably crept into my memory.  I suggested that the kind of story I'm telling (in this case, largely a coming-of-age story) was dictating to a certain extent what details I recalled and the order I told them in.

When I looked back at my personal memory a second time, I think I may have found a second narrative framework (called a schema in psychology) that may be unconsciously dictating the form of my memory, and it's not a very surprising one: The Laramie Project.  And for some reason, this annoys the heck out of me.  Let me give you a run-through and see what you think...

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Walking in My Own Footsteps and Finding they Don't Fit

So, after three and a half weeks back home in Wyoming with family, I boarded a plane in Casper, Wyoming to fly back to my home in Appalachia last Friday night.   The weather, unfortunately, prevented me from making the five-hour trek to Laramie through the Shirley Basin, so I never got to visit the campus again like I hoped.  That was the same cold weather snap (one night plunged to -25 degrees Farenheit) which wreaked havoc on our airplane the day of our departure, and between the cold in Casper and the storms in Atlanta, I spent about nine extra hours sitting on uncomfortable vinyl chairs in various airport terminals trying to think.  For some reason, this visit was a lot harder than on previous years; certainly the lack of my grandmother's presence was a huge factor, but something else about this visit was on my mind as well.

When our plane finally departed from DIA and rocketed its way into the sunset, I snapped a picture of the view on our way out.  This was my last sight of the American West for a long time to come: an endless patchwork swath of snow-dusted farmland, fields, and prairie stretching off into the distance, Laramie and Cheyenne somewhere north of our plane's wingtip.  As I looked out the window and craned my neck backwards for a last glimpse of the Rockies, it suddenly occurred to me what the problem was: I didn't really feel like my life fit here anymore.  In a sense, I was getting utterly homesick for a place that, in a real sense, wasn't even my home anymore.  I've lived in the South for eight and a half years now, which is six months longer than I had ever lived in Wyoming.  I've been in college now for eleven years, in an intellectual environment that has almost nothing to do with my family's lived experience.  How on earth do I reconcile these two halves of my life-- my Western self, my internal wilderness and land-centeredness, and my Humanities self, the one that lives in a middle-class land of intellection and abstraction?  How can I retrace my own footsteps every year back to the land I call home and make that journey make sense?

Back to Appalachia

Sunset at Lucerne, 2, originally uploaded by Wyoming_Jackrabbit.

Well, after over nine hours of delays and a disastrous re-route through Atlanta, Jackrabbit it is finally back in the South once again. As good as it feels to be back in my own home again, I miss my real home: the Rockies. I hope the picture above helps you understand why.

I took this picture from my father's car one evening after a long day-trip to the northern part of the Bighorn Basin.

Friday, January 8, 2010

How I spent my Winter Vacation... And this afternoon

Eagle Fishing, 2 of 6, originally uploaded by Wyoming_Jackrabbit.

Well, I'm stuck in the C terminal of Denver International Airport after my plane from Casper was four hours late and it's looking like I'll be stuck here overnight, all thanks to our wonderful Rocky Mountain weather. It was so cold in Casper (well below zero degrees Farenheit) that the plane fuel wouldn't pump. Go figure.

So, while I am sitting here in virtual stasis while United Airlines is working on keeping us out of Appalachia, I thought I'd share some of my photographs with you just out of boredom. This one represents what I would like to be doing right now and can't: flight.

My father is a wildlife enthusiast, so we spent a lot of time in Wyoming traveling all over the state taking pictures. This immature bald eagle is one we spotted in the Wind River Canyon (north central Wyoming) while he was fishing for carp. After a few unsuccessful tries, he landed on some rocks for a rest.

I hope you enjoy the picture-- and if I get stuck here much longer, you might get several more. If you get as bored as I am, you can visit my Flickr photostream if you like, which is under the name Wyoming_Jackrabbit. I have several other photos of this eagle's fishing expedition, among other things.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Linked NPR Broadcasts on TLP, the Matt Shepard killing, etc.

During the trial and its aftermath, I always felt that the NPR reporters did a decent and largely balanced job of covering the Shepard murder and its aftermath when so many of the television news networks were going unhinged.  Unfortunately, the NPR audio archive no longer has a good search feature, and finding what you want can be tough.  Nevertheless, with some thorough combing through, I managed to find most of the links I was looking for!

Looking at who was covering Laramie when, I think that really nice reporter who snagged me might have been Mark Roberts, who was a regional reporter for NPR stationed out of Denver then.  Just to give credit where it's due, thanks for being a good role model for media people, Mr. Roberts! 

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Life in the confession booth

With what fruit, then, O my Lord...  do I confess, not only in your presence but to men also by these writings, what I now am, not what I once was?
--Augustine, Confessions Book X, Ch. 3

So, I've been thinking hard over the last few days about a weird change I've been noticing about myself this past semester: I'm telling everybody I can corral for ten minutes about what happened when Matt was murdered.   And, I'm starting to wonder: is this necessarily a healthy thing?  It really started with my minister friend back in August.  We were having a theology discussion at a local bar (yes, we do that sort of thing) and he was trying to come up with topics for a lecture series on campus. 

"What about a roundtable on theology and homosexuality?"  He asked innocently.   I leaned over the table and thumped my finger on his legal pad. 

"Absolutely not.  You might as well lob a grenade in the middle of our campus as do that," I answered.

 Later, I apologized and explained to him why I was a little sensitive to that issue, and he was really surprised.  Then, when the Laramie Project: 10 Years Later came to our town, I told "Joe" the entire story, and then the cast.  It's sort of snowballed from there.  Each time scared the utter heck out of me, but then I've felt so much more...  liberated, I guess.  And I keep doing it. 

Reactions have been mixed.  Some people just sort of edge slowly for the door, like I'm going to pounce on them.  One colleague suggested that I needed a vacation.  And then one of my classmates just opened up and shared with me the trauma in her own life she's been silently packing around for seven years, and I was stunned.  She and I have started talking a lot. 

So I find myself in the twenty-ninth year of my existence in the middle of an all-out confession fest.  Why?  I have never really felt impelled to air out my dirty laundry for the world.  In fact, one of the hardest things for me has been that  whole "Confess your sins to each other" business in the Book of James (there's a reason Protestants don't like that book.)  But I'm starting to wonder just a little bit about this little glut of storytelling: is all this some kind of exhibitionist tendency, or is it something more-- or something worse?