Hawk Theatre Company to release “The Laramie Project” virtually


Photo via Hawk Theatre Company Facebook

Hawk Theatre Company’s virtual Fall show, “The Laramie Project” will be available for streaming Nov. 5-9. For the first time in the history of the company, their production will only be available virtually due to COVID-19 regulations that prevent the gathering of large crowds for live performances. 

“The Laramie Project” consists mainly of monologues about the hate crime on gay University of Wyoming student, Matthew Shepard, and how his death affected the town of Laramie, Wyoming as well as national legislation. A theater troupe from New York called the Tectonic Theatre Company travels to this town in order to shed light on the murder. 

“Part of the reason why we chose this play is because it is made up of monologues,” director Chelsea Thornburg said. “So everything we needed to do could be done with all the COVID-19 restrictions as what we are allowed to have on stage, how props worked and everything. It is also relevant today to our students and it is a very important story to be told.” 

Unlike many of the company’s previous productions, “The Laramie Project” is based on a true story with real figures, such as Shepard and his two killers. The play has a sequel “The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later” which mentions the effect of Shepard’s death on national legislation. 

“I think the challenge for the students was some of them did have to play someone of a personality of a belief that completely is different from their own,” Thornburg said. “I do think it expands their experiences as an actor, and their ability to to empathize and view different sides of an open conversation about what is going on.” 

Senior Shae Duggan said the rights of those in the LGBTQ+ community are being threatened even in modern society, and the cast and directors feel the production remains relevant. The play has been used to teach others about the nature of homophobia and examines the extent of human hatred. 

“I think that it is important for Matthew’s story to be told over and over again until the stigma against the LGBTQ+ community is eradicated,” Duggan said. “This show encapsulates why it has been so hard, both then and now, for young people to come out as gay and reveals the magnitude with which people hate. We all felt very blessed to take part in telling Matt’s story, and I hope that there will come a day when human rights are not up for debate, and the immeasurable power of love endures even the harshest levels of hate.” 

With COVID-19 regulations in order, the department changed aspects of rehearsals, such as how props and set design functioned. Actors are not allowed to touch the same props and have had special items assigned to each individual. 

“[Technical theater students] are advised to not share the same tools and social distancing can be difficult sometimes, because building set items can use a lot of collaboration,” senior co-stage manager Amanda Godfrey said. “It has been tough on the whole tech department because sets and lighting have to be condensed down; it just has to be a lot more simple. Also costumes have to be less elaborate and can be taken home by students and washed by them.”

While the cast remains excited about the release of their production, the virtual and recording aspects remained unfamiliar for most. The theater department recruited students participating in Audio Visual courses at the career centers. Usually there is a technical director, assistant director and head director to oversee the production, but this year, there needed to be a production manager in order for the organization of getting the show set up to be streamed online, getting ticket sales to be set up to buy a streaming pass and other technological aspects that weren’t previously needed. 

“I think we were all just extremely happy to be back in the theater,” Duggan said. “Even though the show had to be done unconventionally, I was still grateful for any opportunity to perform. A fairly large aspect of live theater is the audience participation because their reactions fuel your performance, so I also miss having an auditorium full of audience members reacting to what was happening on stage.”