September 19, 2011
Contact: Chloe Kennedy, News and New Media Writer
The Maryville College Theatre Department will present The Laramie Project Oct. 6-9 at the Clayton Center for the Arts.
The award-winning play by Moisés Kaufman and members of The Tectonic Theater Project chronicles the life of the town of Laramie, Wyo., in the year following the murder of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man who on Oct. 7, 1998, was discovered bound to a fence near Laramie, savagely beaten and left to die. Shepard’s death became a national symbol of intolerance and led to calls for expanded federal hate crime legislation.
Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. Oct. 6-8 and 2 p.m. on Oct. 9 in the Haslam Family Flex Theatre.
Tickets, which are available at the Clayton Center Box Office, are $10 for adults and $7 for seniors (ages 60 and older), MC faculty and staff, theatre alumni, area students (under 18) and college students with identification. MC students are admitted free.
Dr. Heather McMahon, associate professor of theatre at Maryville College, said she selected the play for a variety of reasons.
“For one thing, the play is a challenge for actors, since all cast members will play a variety of roles,” McMahon said. “Each actor must differentiate the characters from one another so that the audience can see the townspeople of Laramie, Wyo., come to life. Because the play represents real people, there is an even greater responsibility to do justice to the characters.”
McMahon said she also chose the play because she thinks the message is important.
“I’m impressed with the way the members of the Tectonic Theater Project include a wide array of voices in the play – so that many differing opinions are represented and there is no judgment about whose opinions are right or wrong,” she said. “I think that at the end, though, the play comes down with a passionate plea for acceptance and understanding, and I almost imagine the text saying, ‘No matter what you think about homosexuality, violence is not the answer.’
“When the townspeople of Laramie learned about the beating and murder of Matthew Shepard, many reacted by saying, ‘This isn’t our town. This isn’t who we are.’ What if this happened in Maryville? Would we respond the same way? If we have these conversations in advance – if we engage in civil dialogue about our beliefs and actions – could we avoid such tragedies?”
The cast includes the following Maryville College students: Sarah Bond of Memphis, Tenn., who will play Zackie Salmon, Alison Mears, Tiffany Edwards, the Baptist Minister's Wife, a newsperson and a narrator; Caitlin Campbell of Maryille, Tenn., who will play Reggie Fluty, Rebecca Hilliker, a waitress, a newsperson and a narrator; Sarah Deatherage of Knoxville, Tenn., who will play Amanda, G, Marge and Trish; Walker Harrison of Loudon, Tenn., who will play Jedadiah Schultz, Doug Laws, Matt Mickelson, Dr. Cantway, Newsperson, Gil Engen, Kerry Drake and Aaron McKinney; Cameron Hite of Kingsport, Tenn., who will play Stephen Belber, Philip DuBois, a narrator, an anonymous friend of Aaron McKinney, Rev. Fred Phelps, a judge, a newsperson/field reporter, Bill McKinney and Detective Rob Debree; Harley Mathews of Loudon, Tenn., who will play Roulon Stacey, Jonas Slonaker, Father Robert Schmit, Phil Larbie, Governor Jim Geringer and a narrator; Mary Moates of Etowah, Tenn., who will play Romaine Patterson, Leigh Fondakowski, Sherry Aanenson and Sherry Johnson; Amber Roberts of Morristown, Tenn., who will play Eileen Engen, Andy Paris, Narrator, Catherine Connolly, Kristin Price, Jen, Lucy Thompson and a foreperson; and Jarrett Yoder of Toledo, Ohio, who will play Greg Pierotti, Sgt. Hing, Shadow, Cal, Aaron Kreifels, Russel Henderson, Baptist minister and Shannon.
The cast also includes three community members: Mitch Moore, who will play Moises K, Jon Peacock, Stephen, Murdock, Harry, a priest and Dennis; Chuck Sayne, who will play Doc, Matt G, Jeffrey, Conrad and the Mormon Teacher; and Emily Soleil, who will play April, Barbra and Zubaida.
Leslie Owle of Sevierville, Tenn., is the production’s stage manager, and Alan Reihl is the technical director.
Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state‘s third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for its academic rigor and its focus on the liberal arts, Maryville is where students come to stretch their minds, stretch themselves and learn how to make a difference in the world. Total enrollment for the fall 2013 semester was 1,168.