School of Theatre and Dance acts to stop hate

Carissa Bowlin

Students rehearse a scene from “The Laramie Project.” The play opens tomorrow at 8 p.m. and runs through April 24.

Credit: Andrew popik

The only way to prevent hate crimes from happening is to make the public aware they are going on.

Kent State’s School of Theatre and Dance is taking action and closing its 2004-05 season with “The Laramie Project” Tuesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. April 15-24 in Wright-Curtis Theatre in the Music and Speech Building.

“The Laramie Project,” written by Moisés Kaufman, is a documentary drama.

Kaufman and his colleagues made six trips to Laramie, Wyo. during the 18 months following the murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student. Two-hundred interviews conducted with Laramie residents formed the production.

“The message for the audience in the end is really a question of ‘how does a community survive a crime,’” cast member Jennifer Rose said. “Throughout the show all different sides are presented, but no side is chosen.”

The case was extreme as Shepard was barely kept alive and tied to a post for 18 hours before he was found. Five days later, he died, she said.

“I would hope that audiences that see this show will come away with a greater tolerance of homosexuality and other beliefs that do not necessarily mesh with their own,” cast member Cleric Costes said. “It seems to me that most Americans these days are so concerned with getting their opinions heard that we’re doing our damnedest to drown out everyone else.”

The production calls for eight student actors to play 63 roles.

As part of the Roe Green Visiting Director Series, Guest Director Sue Ott Rowland is helping the cast meet this challenge.

Rowland is a professor and chair of the University of Toledo’s department of Theatre and Film, the artistic director and co-founder of the Cleveland Women’s Theatre Project and former associate artistic director of Round House Theatre in Washington, D.C.

“I have never done a play that even came close to the experience I’ve had with this one,” Costes said. “The script calls for one actor to perform many roles, each of them different, and it is abstract in that sense. But at the same time, each character has to remain true to itself, and it is here that a lot of the powerful messages of the play are heard.”

Before the production, the school will also host its second annual panel discussion series “Spotlight on Success.”

The panel consists of Sue Ott Rowland; Deb Lemire, artistic director of Queen Bee Productions; and Joyce Casey, artistic director of Dobama Theatre.

Instructor Clyde Simon will serve as moderator.

The discussion, “Windows on the World: Theatre & Social Change” is April 19 at 6:30 p.m. in E. Turner Stump Theatre in The Music and Speech Building.

This is free and open to the public.

Tickets for “The Laramie Project” are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $8 for Kent State alumni, faculty and students with ID or under 18.

Call (330) 672-2497 for more information.

Contact performing arts reporter Carissa Bowlin at [email protected].