Jon Peterson, Executive Artistic Director/Founder of P3 Theatre Roulette, is presenting a virtual reading of Moisés Kaufman and the Members of the Tectonic Theatre Project’s masterful play The Laramie Project at P3Theatre.biz/p3-theatre-roulette. The online presentation features Emily Abeles, Guillermo Alonso, Alden Bettencourt, Kara Brouelette, Elizabeth Curtin, Christy Mauro-Cohen, Jodi Marks, Philip McBride and Jeremy Saje, each of whom will be reading from their individual “safe at home” locations. For more information, please call (714) 689-8116.
For those not familiar with the facts upon which the play is based, in October 1998, a twenty-one-year-old student at the University of Wyoming was kidnapped, severely beaten, and left tied to a fence in the middle of the prairie outside Laramie, Wyoming. His bloody, bruised, and battered body was not discovered until the next day, and he died several days later in an area hospital. His name was Matthew Shepard, and he was the victim of this assault because he was gay.
Moisés Kaufman and fellow members of the Tectonic Theater Project made six trips to Laramie over the course of a year and a half, both in the aftermath of the beating and during the trial of the two young men accused of killing Shepard, during which they conducted more than 200 interviews with the people of the town. Some people interviewed were directly connected to the case, while others were citizens of Laramie, and the breadth of the reactions to the crime led Kaufman and Tectonic Theater members to construct a deeply moving theatrical experience from these interviews and their own experiences in Laramie.
Their groundbreaking play, The Laramie Project, is a breathtaking collage that explores the depths to which humanity can sink and the heights of compassion of which we are capable. And in these uncertain times when the world must learn to cope with the uncertainty and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic which is both isolating and uniting us, I cannot think of a better play to experience with your entire family to start a conversation about why equality is so vital to a civilized society.
Jon Peterson, who is directing the production, shares “To be honest, since the switch over from real life staging to virtual happened, I've been scrambling around just trying to find ways to be innovative, stay relevant, and give back to the community. We are a new theatre company, and I'm pretty much running a one-man operation at this point.”
Shari Barrett (SB): As a point of clarification for readers, I held my interview with Jon just hours prior to the death of George Floyd in police custody and the protests/violence that have ensued afterwards.
(SB): What led to your decision to present THE LARAMIE PROJECT now?
Jon Peterson (Jon): Ever since the South Coast Chorale did a concert based upon the Matthew Shepard story, his story has weighed very heavily on my heart. I believe we are at a point in our modern existence where we have the opportunity to unite and get through this, or divide and not be so fortunate. I feel the last 3-4 years have seen some regression in overall acceptance in this country and I don’t want to lose this precious progress that many minority groups have made in basic societal acceptance. This story serves as a reminder of what we don’t want this country to become. Also, June 1st is the beginning of Pride month, so I figured the gay theme would be very fitting.
(SB): How did you audition cast members?
(Jon): With the exception of one cast member, I’ve seen them onstage in a previous P3 production and have worked with them onstage or both. They were each picked because of their talent as actors, and with character diversity in mind.
(SB): How are you holding rehearsals?
(Jon): We are at the mercy of Zoom. Each person is at their own home (with the exception of two cast members who live together) and on their computers/phones/iPads. We started our first rehearsal and talked about the story. Most of the cast members were either very young, or not born in 1998, but every single person in the cast had heard the story. Then we broke it down by acts (there are 3). It’s been a fun challenge because each actor plays multiple roles. I can’t wait for you to see the talent that has assembled to donate their time and talents to this production!
(SB): What do you hope audiences take away from the production, especially if they tune in with their families?
(Jon): What I would like audiences to take away from the production is the realization that people are just that, people: Black, White, Buddhist, Mormon, gay, straight, transgender, male, female. Each one of us is unique, one of a kind, and special. Let’s not wait for another tragedy to remind ourselves of that.
P3 Theatre Company would like to send out their wishes that everyone stays safe, healthy and sane at this time. Live in-person theatre will be back and we hope it will be welcomed with open arms. Support your local theatres!
(SB): While there is no cost for virtual audience members to register for P3 Theatre Roulette programming, there are still costs incurred by P3 Theatre Company to produce The Laramie Project and other titles during their Monday night virtual series. These costs include licensing of the material, streaming platform fees, and marketing. Currently, P3 artists are sharing their talents in the series on a volunteer basis. But to work toward our mission, P3 Theatre Company would like to be in a position to provide paid opportunities for these artists. If you would like to contribute toward the P3 Theatre Roulette series or to P3 Theatre Company, please visit their donation page HERE.
This article first appeared on Broadway World.