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The Advocate

The Student News Site of Albuquerque Academy

The Advocate

The Student News Site of Albuquerque Academy

The Advocate

Academy Takes on The Laramie Project

The Laramie Project takes serious themes to center stage.
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  • Jordan Kropka ’24 and Laramie cast.

  • Heidi Wrobel ’24 and Ainara Vecchia ’24.

  • Lou Small ’25 talking with Ari Rosner-Salazar ’25 about Laramie tragedy.

  • Augi Steele ’25 and Zachary Brown ’26 as ministers in the Laramie community.

  • Addie Neyback ’25, Jordan Kropka ’24, and Ainara Vecchia ’24 having drinks and a smoke.

  • Noah Pocock Wood ’25 gets flower from friend after performance.

  • Laramie community members Siwayra Yapita ’24, Ainara Vecchia ’24, Lou Small ’25, and Abby Czuchlewski ’24 listen to Addie Nayback ’25.

The Albuquerque Academy Performing Arts department produced an excellent display of serious and complex themes with their fall production of The Laramie Project, performed the first two weekends of November and directed by David Sinkus. Both entertaining and heartbreaking, the play came to life through the talent of the actors juggling multiple roles, crew working behind the scenes, and participation from 8th to 12th grade.
The Laramie Project was developed in the late ‘90s by the Tectonic Theater Program, which was founded by Moisés Kaufman in New York City. The project was developed in response to the brutal homophobic and hate-fueled killing of Matthew Shepard in small-town Laramie, Wyoming. The play transforms real transcripts from witnesses of the murder and accounts of the unfolding events into both a story and conversation centered around the extent of anti-gay hate, even in small town communities, and its consequences. The students’ ability to take on this difficult yet important message of how to deal with intolerance and hate was both impressive and empowering.
Using the Tectonic Theater members’ interviews of the Laramie town members, the play tells the story of the small unbothered town, slowly transformed by this tragic and terrifying incident. The Laramie townspeople’s consensus is that hate like this is not part of where they live, and that it is crushing to see this proven wrong. The play is an important reminder that intolerance and homophobia are present everywhere and cannot be ignored. Already this year there have been at least 26 killings of transgender or gender nonconforming people, over half of them black transgender women. And during Pride Month alone this past June, there were at least 145 anti-LGBTQIA+ extremism incidents reported.
The gravity of the crime and hate were portrayed through monologues with graphic and disturbing imagery that both made the play hard to watch and crucial to see. Emotional deliveries by key actors and characters like the town member who found Matthew Shepard’s body (Lou Small ‘25), the sheriff who reported to the scene (Ani Field ‘24), the doctor who took Matthew in (Ainara Vecchia ‘24) and one of the men who contributed to the killing (Addie Nayback ‘25), made this tragedy come alive.
A Laramie-adjacent Wyoming State college student, played by Diego Chavez ‘26, offered a broader view of anti-gay hate at a university outside of Laramie by providing another, more subtle, instance of intolerance. His humorous, relatable, and disheartening monologue of a young actor whose parents failed to support him when he wanted to perform a play titled Angels in America, about the AIDS epidemic, not only added more perspective, but also made viewers wonder how our own actors dealt with their performance of this play. Bella Sanchez ‘24, both one of the actors and a leader of our school’s Sexuality and Gender Alliance, or SAGA, said “Laramie was not an easy play to perform… but everyone was really brave and strong.” She continued, “Despite the horrific lines we had to say over and over and over again, there was a lot of love floating around on that stage and I think everyone could feel it.”
The stories of the people close to Matthew and the town of Laramie joined forces with the stories of outside action of the media and protests in the second act of the play with an overarching message of resistance against such hate. One of the characters, an older gay man played by Augi Steele ‘25, gave another important perspective, highlighting the great strides the LGBTQIA+ community has achieved, while the march organized for Matthew and the following angel themed protests against homophobia led by Abby Czuchlewski ‘24’s character gave much needed hope and power to the play.
The play uniquely highlighted the two men who killed Matthew as they were put on trial facing the death penalty, forcing the audience to confront their perspectives, no matter how disturbing, which broadened the audience’s knowledge of hate and where it comes from. The last scene brings the audience back to the fence where Matthew was beaten and left, as the cast is collected in reflection.
The play provided a necessary and powerful conversation of how hate manifests through violence, intolerance, and brutality, as well as how resistance and community can combat it. The intimate positioning of the stage, with costume changes on the wings instead of backstage, helped make the message of this play personal. The varying viewpoints, including of multiple generations in the gay community, a variety of religious leaders, and the hodgepodge of conflicted Laramie townspeople, reaffirmed the relatableness and relevance of the impactful play. Even if you missed the performances, you can still take away the important call to recognize and confront homophobia. More information on The Laramie Project and the Matthew Shepard foundation can be viewed in an upcoming library display organized by the Allies, Friends and Parents of LGBTQIA+ Academy, led by Melinda Delany, as well as SAGA’s upcoming gallery art walk titled Angel Action, in reference to the play.

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About the Contributor
Lily Ma’ayan ’24, 7th Grade Editor
Lily, or Lilith, '24 is the Advocate’s 7th-grade editor, working with our youngest writers and artists. She is a class officer who, along with writing, enjoys making art, some of which is to be used as cover art for friends. Lily joined the Advocate in 2021 with an interest in writing and a love of reading. She often listens to music with her two cats, Cocoa and Nilla.

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