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, February 28, 2010

Comps, Day 2: *whimper*

Whitetail buck

Day 2 of my exams is here, and I'm getting some serious cabin fever. My entire house looks like a library threw up. I'm getting cramps in my thumbs from hitting the space bar on my computer. And I'm kicking myself for actually suggesting to a committee member that I was interested in Patristic theodicy.  As it turned out, he took me seriously.  Damn

For your viewing enjoyment, here is a picture of where my mind's at-- not in sixth century Ravenna, not in Geatland, and certainly not in Purgatory.  It's west of Meeteetsee, playing in the snow.  

So, just for grins and giggles, here's a picture of a whitetail buck giving you the raspberry.  When my father and I got this shot, we were pleasantly surprised at how nicely he posed for us-- normally whitetails are spooky things.   

I have him on my screensaver with a bunch of other photos, and when I get sick of writing, I put them on the screen to soothe my battered graduate-student psyche...

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Comps, Day 1: YEOWCH!

So, today is my first full day of writing my medieval field exam. It lasts from noon on Friday to noon on Monday. 

How is it going, you ask? Here's my response:

Don't touch me. Just... don't. I'm going to crawl back in my hole and cry a little bit more...

Friday, February 26, 2010

Angstademic Discourse

[Hello all! As of today, the Jackrabbit will be spending most of her weekend furiously typing on her first round of PhD field exams in medieval literature. So while I'm collapsing into a nervous wreck over Boethius, Beowulf, The Pearl poet and/or Chaucer, please enjoy the melodious tones of this silent scream into the Bloggosphere...]

Human rights abuses
 So, the good news is this: I found out last week that I am going to be talking about The Laramie Project at an interdisciplinary academic conference focusing on "memory and trauma" as their theme.  I'll present the paper in March as part of a panel on issues of narrative trauma, representation and recursive storytelling (this would take a lot of time to explain.)  Anyhow, my personal experience with The Laramie Project and questions regarding trauma and memory are going to be placed alongside narratives of natural disasters and displacement, civil war, and victims of seemingly motiveless violence.  And among all this, I'm supposed to come up with something theoretical and pithy about The Laramie Project that will make the collective cogs in the audience members' heads hum pleasantly, a good performance of academic gymnastics.  And at the moment, the prospect of this makes me think just one thing: Ugh.      

So, at first I was thrilled to finally talk about all this in an academic forum.  Then a couple days later I started to experience a little bit of doubt, and that doubt has turned into some outright panic about having to discuss this in person to academics.  I'm worried: is anything I'm doing here actually worthy of being considered academic?  Or, on the flip side, is anything I'm doing here actually worthy of being considered authentic writing?  What's going to happen if I pull whatever-the-hell-this-is into the academic sphere where it can be theorized to death? 

A bigger question might be this:  what the hell IS this thing I'm writing?  Can I even remotely call this a foray into an academic discussion? And, should I?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Blog link: Read Jonas Slonaker's Editorial, Interview, and More!

[Update: I think I have the link fixed now.  Sorry for the annoyance!]

The blog Ten Thousand by the Fourth of July is a blog o' potpourri: some poetry, personal reflections, reviews...  a little bit of everything.  It's run by Pennsylvania based blogger CA Conrad, who is also a cousin of Laramie resident Jonas Slonaker.  Conrad interviewed Slonaker after Tectonic interviewed him for The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later back in October 2008, and attached are a list of personal reminisces about life in Pennsylvania and the struggles of their family.  It's utterly fascinating, people.   

Okay, so you already know that I've always harbored a soft spot for Jonas Slonaker in the play, mostly because he's so honest and straightforward about how he sees the world, and he's resistant to happy endings.  This interview, and the personal information attached, only makes me like the guy a little bit more. There's info on everything from the HBO movie to the limo driver interviewed for the first play. 

And, there's one more thing you should know: the full text of that letter to the editor that the Boomerang refused to run is in the post, too (look near the bottom).  It's the only source I've found for it so far.  I didn't want to post it on my own site because that felt like cheating.  So, go!  Read! Look for yourself!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Fear, Loathing and "The Laramie Project": 10 Years Later, 1500 miles away

The October 12 performance was a watershed moment for me.  For one, it was the first time I had had a healthy interaction with a TLP performance, and it was only the second time I had actually dialogued back with the play-- two plays, now. 

The performance has given me a lot to think about, a lot to question, and especially a lot for introspection.  This blog entry is my first attempt to try and work through what the play experience was like from my observer's perspective.   

I hadn't really slept since the Friday night before the performance.   Adrenaline kept me moving through most of Sunday when I chatted with the cast, but by Monday I was absolutely dragging.  I was actually in the middle of an LGBTA meeting right before I left for the performance site and nervous as heck.  (Yes, I'm a straight, conservative evangelical who's actively involved in the LGBT community-- please, just... deal with it.)  This week, I was catching up with a friend I'll call "Lucas"  while everyone else chatting about the National Coming Out Day activities and were planning on seeing Milk that evening on campus.  "Lucas" and I whispered back and forth confidentially in the middle of the hubbub; he'd had an absolutely miserable weekend.  
"I've got to run to the play," I finally said when I couldn't wait any longer.  "I'll catch you later."  My friend gave me a funny look.
"You okay, hun?"  He asked.
"This play scares the hell out of me,"  I confessed.  Naturally, this confused him.  You see, I had never told anyone in that room except the club president my history before. 
"Why would it scare you?"   He asked.  So I came out with it to my friend "Lucas" right there. He was dumbfounded.  "Lucas" gave me a bear hug to comfort me before I left, and then I slipped out the back door.    

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I Cannot BELIEVE What I'm Looking At...

Governor of Wyoming, originally uploaded by micdsphotos.

Okay, so I've spent a lot of time prowling Flickr over the last few weeks looking at theater shoots of TLP and TLP: 10 Years Later just to look at things like staging and whatnot. For the most part, I've been rather impressed at what I've seen, and it's ranged from full-scale professional productions to shoestring budget high school productions. And then I ran into this and just about gagged.  I now know how bad a bad production of The Laramie Project can actually get. 

The cultural travesty you're looking at above is from a St. Louis production of The Laramie Project in 2008 put on by the Mary Institute and St. Louis Day School (yes, I'm calling them out). You can view the entire set here if you like (and hilarity will ensue).   If I can believe the caption, that's supposed to be the former Governer of Wyoming, Jim Geringer, pictured above. What.  The.  Heck. 

First of all, what the hell is this guy wearing? Even the Brushpopper shirts that got really popular about fifteen years ago, which can be pretty darn loud, aren't usually this extreme.   I haven't seen anybody wear a shirt that ugly outside of a rodeo ring or southwestern Texas (I mean, the embroidery and cut do have a traditional Tejano flair to them, no?).  And then there's the snaps.  It's a freaking snap shirt.  Anymore, snap shirts are mostly for old people with sore fingers like my father or fratboy Kid Rock wannabes who like to pretend they're all cowboy in their beat-up straw hats and ostrich skin boots.  And then the hat....  it's got to be at least one full size too big for his head.  Besides, usually those enormous ten-gallon affairs only show up on Texans; if you wear a sail that big that on your head in the Wyoming wind, you're just asking to lose it.  And a bolo tie?  With a concho on it?  If you dress like that in Wyoming and you're under a certain age, it's usually because you're trying to play it up.  You know, at a rodeo or a livestock auction.  It's just not a part of the everyday wardrobe anymore. 

Second of all, where the hell did he dredge up those glasses? I mean, seriously? Highway patrolman reflective aviator's glasses? With that sneer on his face, he looks like Cartman off of South Park taking about people "disrespectin' his authoritah."  (Although I have to admit, I thought I saw a picture of Doc Connor wearing a pair of those once.)  It's like that scene in Back to the Future 3 where Doc dresses Marty up like a rhinestone cowboy in a fringed lamé shirt to go back in time and Doc reassures him with something like, "Of course this is accurate.  I based this outfit on painstaking research."  (Please tell me somebody else remembers that movie...)

Okay, so I know that this is a (big budget) high school production, so I shouldn't get too wrapped around the axle about this.  But there was an adult directing this thing, right?  You know, one that knows the difference between an insulting, culturally insensitive parody of Wyoming and an insulting, culturally insensitive parody of Texas?

Anyhow, I had better shut up. But just to add to the jocularity, here's a picture of the REAL former Governer of Wyoming, Jim Geringer, with no bolo, no sunglasses, and no cowboy hat.  No kidding:

Keynote Speaker, Geringer, originally uploaded by WyGISC. (via Flickr.)

This rant has been provided for your reading enjoyment by a very indignant Wyoming Jackrabbit.   Thankyouverymuch.  

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Plan-B Theater Company Remembers TLP

The Laramie Project, originally uploaded by planbtheatreco.

Plan-B Theatre company is a Salt Lake City-based theatre troupe who, according to their website, "develops and produces unique and socially conscious theatre." Considering their social mission, then, it's no surprise that they were also the first independent company licensed to produce The Laramie Project after the Tectonic run was complete in late 2001.   The theatre company has a blog post looking back on their own personal recollections of the Shepard case and the staging of that monumental run of performances in 2001.  It's a pretty moving story-- especially when you read who showed up to watch their performance (and I'm not going to spoil it for you by telling you who...)

In addition, they have a series of photos from the theater company on Flickr so you can see their body of work over the last decade or so-- and let me tell you, it's pretty impressive.  Their repertoire since 2000 has ranged through a wide range of thought-provoking drama about everything from GLBT issues (like this one) to race to terrorism. 

 There is a set of stills for The Laramie Project as well in the Flickr set, but I'm having trouble from the context of the pictures telling whether or not they're from this original run in 2001 (pictured left) or if they're from a later run, possibly in celebration of The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later.  They weren't uploaded until a month ago and there are no descriptions, so I'm not going to venture a guess.  I will say, however, that it looks like it was brilliantly staged. 

In any case, I wanted to share with you their poster for the run, which is a fascinating piece of artwork from both a symbolic and an aesthetic point of view.  I love their view of the sky-- literally boiling in the turmoil of a prairie sunset, crashing down and yet opening an escape-- and the double image of both Shepard's binding and release.   The artist is playing around with some great imagery of social turmoil, freedom, and hope. 

But of course, the thing that most clearly catches my eye is that fence.  They didn't design the scene with a buck fence in it, and being a good Utah company in an area with lots of rural landscapes and wilderness, I have to wonder if that was on purpose because I simply can't imagine they wouldn't know what a buck fence looks like.   Perhaps it's not too strange to read their choice as a refusal to participate in the grisly symbolism that had, by the time of this run, built up around buck fence where Matt was beaten.  If so, that's an impulse I can completely understand and actually sort of appreciate.

In any case, you now have four links above to explore and play with.  If nothing else, check out that blog post!  It's fascinating for a lot of reasons-- especially with tidbits of things that were in the original TT run but then were edited out by the time the Vintage edition was released, nearly at the same time as this theater run.  Please, check them out!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Incredible panorama shot of a WBC protest/counter-protest

I had used some pictures from a 2009 Albany high school performance of The Laramie Project in a previous post.  Apparently, Westboro Baptist Church had shown up to protest the performance, and a Flickr community member, Jesse Feinman, has posted an absolutely amazing panorama shot of the protest.  (That's him at left counter-protesting, which I absolutely love.)  If you want to see what love overwhelming hate looks like, then I'd recommend it.   The counter protest on the other side of the street in the full panorama shot is simply amazing.

Since Flickr has a size limit posted on pictures, the link below goes to a different web address where you can view the whole thing.  

My favorite signs:  "Jesus Forgives" (on left)   and "You eat your kids" (!) on the right.  Guess which one is which:

The picture link above is watermarked (I did that intentionally), but go to his Flickr photostream (linked above) for contact information and link if you'd like a clean copy.  He says he's happy to answer requests.  

So please if you like, take a look, wash your hands, and then hug somebody who needs it.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Fear, Loathing, and "The Laramie Project": Narratives

After the 2006 production of TLP at my college campus, I continued to teach the play; but, but following that traumatic evening, my pedagogy changed.  For one, I adopted instead a much more autobiographical focus in my classroom.  Our department allows us to pick themes for our 101 and 102 English classes, so I picked autobiographical memory for mine.  Actually, "Memory and Atrocity" might have been a better name for my class; in addition to TLP we generally read Maus and study the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa (a "semester of depression," one student quipped).  I've taught Jane Taylor's Ubu and the Truth Commission alongside TLP before, which had unpredictable but interesting results.  (Comparing TLP with autobiographical theater in South Africa is a rich, rich field of study I'm trying to research-- but more of that later.)

In my course, we read TLP as a reservoir of a crafted, collected (as opposed to collective) memory of Matt's murder, and we talk about the strengths, pitfalls, and limitations of memory to capture a specific moment in time.  We read TLP to look at the collective understanding of Matt's murder, the whys and hows of how people remember, and why personal memory is such a powerful tool for social change.  This would ultimately be good training for me, psychologically speaking, because I would have to face this play one more time:  the October reading of The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

NY Times Covers "10 Years Later"

The New York Times' Patrick Healy did an extensive piece similar to Newsweek's in the run-up before the presentation of The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later.  It has a lot of the personal focus on what happened after the media fallout that appears in the play.  You can follow this link to the article. 

Take note of a few good resources on the same article page:

Healy, Patrick.  "Laramie Killing Given an Epilogue Ten Years Later."  New York Times 16 Sep 2009.   Web.  

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The 2006 Production of "The Laramie Project" in Appalachia

Laramie Project 33, originally uploaded by rogerchoover.

If you'd like to see some stills of the well-acted undergraduate performance of TLP back in 2006 that sent me into a minor panic attack, Rocher Choover here at my college has put up a good series of stills from the performance. You can click on the picture above to follow it to his Flickr Photostream and the set for The Laramie Project.  (He also has sets for their other major performances, including Tommy, Flyin' West, Copenhagen and A Christmas Carol). 

This picture is from early on in the play, and (I think) depicts the Tectonic Theater crew discussing their upcoming project. The tall kid with the black hair with his hand on the chair is the actor who played Jed Schultz in the performance, and he interpreted his part close to the real Jed that it was really kind of scary. If memory serves, he was barely a sophomore when he did this performance. 

Looking through these pictures again actually made me feel a little queasy and jittery. But for you, I think they would be a helpful guide for picturing the nature of this second performance. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Fear, Loathing and "The Laramie Project": Haunted

I left Laramie in 2001 for the other side of the country.  I was recently married and my husband had a promising job lined up, so I was destined to finish my English degree at a small college in the deep South that smelled like mildew and looked like the set from a Civil War romance.  Once I left Laramie, however, I started to get an idea of what the rest of the country knew about Laramie and how the media, and how The Laramie Project as well, had colored their impression of us.  For the next eight years, it felt like every other new relationship I started also had to start with a defense of my home state.  I feel like ever since I left the Rockies I've been haunted-- haunted largely by this play.  Much of my own struggle to contend with the issues surrounding Matt's murder really come down to how I contend and find peace with The Laramie Project, but as you'll see from my story, that attempt to find peace is still very much a work in progress...

Fosco Lives! Talks about visiting the fence

California Blogspot blogger Fosco (of Fosco Lives!) drove through Wyoming back in 2006 and went to visit the fence site.  He wrote up his experience (and a short reaction to Beth Loffreda's book) on his blog later.  Actually, if you'd happen to like the perspective of an intellectual hedonist driving through the most desolate patch of Western Americana, Fosco's writeup of the entire trip makes for some hilarious (and scathing) social commentary.  But, his perspective on the fence is interesting, and it's one of the last references I've found so far to the fence actually being up.

Since I recently wrote on the fence, I thought I'd include it here.  You can visit the page at:

Let me warn you ahead of time: Fosco writes for mature readers with a sharp sense of humor (and he gets very sharp with the west).  Don't wander by the way if you can't handle it...

Friday, February 5, 2010

No Fog West Theater Company: Doing TLP in Wyoming

So how far would you be willing to go in order to stage a production of The Laramie Project in the state of Wyoming?  No Fog West Theater was started when a Sheridan high school student wanted to perform The Laramie Project in high school, but the play was banned for its language and explicit content.  That student went to Vassar the following year, drummed up a cast, director and financial support, and then they brought The Laramie Project to Sheridan, Wyoming for a two-week run at the Carriage House Theater.  They repeated the venture again in 2008, performing Talking to Terrorists.  You can read about the company's Wyoming run in the Casper Star-Tribune, linked here. 

How's that for dedication?  It's an interesting story, and you can read some of their reactions online from their blog for No Fog West; they basically only write during their summer performance season, so there are posts from their 2007 and 2008 seasons. 

It seems that they have let their website domain expire, but you can also track them via Facebook.  Definitely check them out!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

How Geoffrey Chaucer Changed My Life

As you know, I've spilled a little bit of ink giving my own relationship between academia and my home culture the talking cure, especially because I've not had a lot of luck integrating the two in any meaningful way.  A lot of times I feel like I'm trying to walk down the top of a split-rail fence without falling into a pond on one side or concrete on the other.  In particular, it's been hard making my family understand why on earth I'm still in college twelve years after high school and training to be a medievalist of all things.  I really have a hard time trying to make my life in academia useful and relevant to theirs. 

Well, the other day I got a phone call from my brother "Coyote" during dinner.  He lives in Laramie and, after about a ten year hiatus, he's finally going back to school at the University of Wyoming. He's had a few lumps and bruises, but at this point, he's doing pretty darn well.  He and I have always had a fraught relationship, but in the last five years or so it has settled out to a pleasant formula: three parts sarcasm and one part vinegar.  But, you need to understand: my brother never calls anybody.  In fact, Coyote's name pops up in my cell phone as "The Invisible Man."  If he's calling me, it's because he wants something. 

So, I pick up the phone and tell him, "Well, hi, Coyote, what's up?" and he says, "Hey, Jackrabbit, so I'm writing this paper on Chaucer's Clerk in The Canterbury Tales, and it was due forty-five minutes ago, and I'm completely stuck and can't get this paper finished.  What do I do?!"  So, I long-distance coached him over the phone for almost an hour about his paper and helped him get his ideas straight.  As it turns out, he wasn't stuck as he thinks he was; he had some awesome observations, but he needed somebody to tell him he was on the right track and fill in a little cultural context he hadn't gotten in class yet.

Coyote and I had the longest conversation we have probably had about anything since the road trip after my grandmother died last March, and about medieval society and biblical exegesis in "The Clerk's Tale" of all things. He was genuinely interested; and I was genuinely happy to help him out. 
When we were done, he said, "Okay, little sister, I better hang up and write this thing finally.  Thanks for your help."
"No problem, Coyote," I said.  "Anytime."  There was a brief pause on the other end of the phone.
"I always knew I'd figure out something you were good for eventually," he wisecracked.  "Catch you later."   And then he hung up.  
I was absolutely flying with joy for the rest of the night.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Fear, Loathing and "The Laramie Project": the 2000 Production

Now that I have explained my relationship to the Matt Shepard tragedy and the two trials, I need to explain the next phase.  My story doesn't really end with the conviction of Matt's killers; it continues through my experience with The Laramie Project to the reading of Ten Years Later.  A lot of my fear and loathing really comes out in relation to the play than anything else-- so I suppose that is what I'll have to explain next: my first experience riding out the shock waves of that earthquake of a play produced by Tectonic Theater.   

Before the 2000 Tectonic performance in Laramie, I never really considered myself "traumatized" by what had happened after Matt's murder. It was merely a headache, one among many. After all, I never knew Matt; In comparison to other people like "Sascha," who was his friend and was still hurting two years later, what right did I have to bear those kinds of psychological wounds?

Besides, I had bigger problems: screwing up the relationship I was in; trying to deal with seeing what was left of a suicide jumper from the top of my dorm; worrying about my brother dropping out of college and getting into trouble and my sister still trying to deal with the wreckage of a messy divorce; the death of a favorite high school teacher in a car wreck; running into spiritual questions I couldn't answer. The Shepard incident and the media problems seemed to be just one minor problem of a whole host of other issues that hit much closer to home and consumed much more of my attention.