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The Paw Print

Poly’s winter play “Laramie Project” grapples with themes relevant to today’s attitudes toward the LGBTQ+ community

Jennifer Godwin-Minto

On Feb. 2 and 3, the Polytechnic Performing Arts Department performed their winter show, “The Laramie Project.” This play, by Moisés Kaufman, takes the form of real-life interviews, centering on the reaction from the townspeople of Laramie, Wyoming, to the murder of Matthew Shepard and the following trial of his killers.

The play, which deals with issues of homophobia, religion, the death penalty and the power of empathy and hate, tasked each actor to play several parts, exploring and engaging with often uncomfortable and conflicting perspectives.

The dedicated group of students worked to create a diverse and complex cast of characters with their director, Upper School 10th Grade Dean and Coordinator Cynthia Crass. She helped them delineate between their various characters using acting techniques of voice, mannerisms and props.

Jennifer Godwin-Minto

Crass selected this play not only because it marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s murder but also due to the present political and social environment surrounding the LGBTQ+ community.

“This happened. It’s still happening. What are you going to do about it?” asked Crass.“You just keep saying, ‘It was a long time ago. People aren’t like that anymore.’ Well, people are like that. We still raise children to hate people who are different than them. Hopefully, not all of us are doing that, but we as a country are still doing that.”

Jennifer Godwin-Minto

The actors, faculty, QSA (Queer-Straight Alliance) and QAG (Queer Affinity Group) facilitated discussions around many choices the play makes, including the use of several homophobic slurs. This collaboration was significant as it offered queer-identifying students and teachers the opportunity to have a voice in the media being presented to the school community.

Senior leader of QSA and QAG Maddie Hays commented, “It’s an important dialogue because so often the way that queer people are represented is when we are being killed and when devastating things are happening to us. I think it’s important to be reminded of why this story in particular is so important to tell.”

The discussion group ultimately reached an agreement, though certainly not a consensus, to maintain the original language of the script as the play is formed from real life interviews.

“In this day and age it’s so easy to not maintain faithfulness to the truth in this era of AI deep fakes, censorship and book banning in other states,” added Hays. “It’s more important now than ever that we remain faithful to the truth, especially when the format of the play is based on real people who they conducted real interviews with.”

Hays hopes that “The Laramie Project” leaves a lasting impact on the Poly community: “I just hope that people understand. This is part of why we kept the words in. “The Laramie Project” is real and it is many peoples’ truth even in 2024, even in Los Angeles, even at Poly. It resonates with the actors, the people who watched it, and the QSA for a reason. So, think about your actions and how they contribute to that community.”

Jennifer Godwin-Minto
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