Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Large-scale ‘The Laramie Project’ enveloping in Green Bay

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Some plays just don’t quit.One is “The Laramie Project,” a kind of documentary that won’t go away because of…+ The story, with twists.+ The reactions of people, which go all over.+ The theatrical style, crammed with detail.+ The reality, and the scope thereof.+ Controversy, piled deep.At the center is Matthew Shepard, who was gay, and died in October 1998 after being beaten and left on a wooden fence on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming.The play is about crime, homosexuality, the medical profession, law enforcement, hatred, a family’s love in a storm, wide-open spaces, shadings of truth, the media (as a mob, yet fact-presenting), government, AIDS (Matthew Shepard tested HIV-positive), the court system, religion and faith, sociology, small-town life, university life, bar life style and writing a play in a journalistic way. The language is sometimes rough, though character-driven. Humor? Yes, but dark.University of Wisconsin-Green Bay students take off gloves and come out swinging in the Theatre and Dance department production that is available online until May 3.Scene from UWGB’s “The Laramie Project.” (Warren Gerds screenshot)The production is stifled by the wearing of clear masks for COVID-19 reasons. Voices are muffled a bit, but the power of the play and story comes through.Because a group of theatrical researchers interviewed a full range of townspeople and captured a scope of personalities and beliefs in what was an international story, “The Laramie Project” is unforgettable.The thing is a 10,000-piece puzzle – so many shapes, so complex, so big.And interesting. Guided by director Rebecca Stone Thornberry – who in a preview program notes that she saw the original production in New York – cast members are clearly absorbed in portraying multiple characters each. Their people range from voices of reason to fire breathers.Some moments are amusing. Like this from a Muslim woman speaking to one of the theater folk: “You’re going to be in a play in New York acting like us? That’s so weird.”Many moments are chilling. One is this from a Laramie resident who comes to a realization that the perpetrators of the horrible beating are home grown: “Well, it’s pretty clear that we do grow children like that here.”The play arc includes the discovery of Matthew Shepard on the fence, the first police officer on the scene, a collage of voices in the community, medical reports to the demise and the individual trials of Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney. Very much more is in between.The performance floor is a map of Laramie. The most common prop is a chair. Often a scene starts as a wide view, and then the character is shown up close when he or she speaks. Up-close views heighten the effect of what’s said.This is the second UWGB production of the year focusing on a historical event with widespread impact.  The first was “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992” – the Rodney King story.In theater circles, “The Laramie Project” is a title that draws awe and respect. To put it on is a substantial undertaking. Though it has rough edges, the UWGB production is impressive for its CLOUT.***Creative: Playwrights – Moisés Kaufman and members of Tectonic Theater Project; director – Rebecca Stone Thornberry; scenic designer and sound designer – John Thornberry; properties designer and assistant scenic designer – Isabelle Austgen*; lighting designer and technical director – Dinesh Yadav; assistant technical director – David Cook; costume coordinator – Madison Sagen; dramaturgs – McKenzie Thompson and Thomas Campbell; production stage manager – John Thornberry; assistant stage manager – Brandon Otten; master electrician and assistant lighting design – Halley Lau; light board operator – Bekah Witte; costume crew – Aubrey Stein*; run crew – Ally Swigert; videographer – Chris Opper; assistant videographer – Charrey Honkanen; video editor – Anya Kopischke; managing director of theater productions – Rebecca Stone Thornberry; executive production assistant and graphic design – Tricia Adams; university communications liaison – Sue BodilyCast+ Andy Paris, Jedediah Schultz, Doug Laws, Matt Mickelson, Dr. Cantway, Governor Geringer, Philip Dubois, Shannon, Kerry Drake, Russell Henderson – Conner Andersen+ Rebecca Hilliker, Waitress, Kristen Price, Reggie Fluty, Newsperson – Kylie Heisz+ Greg Pierotti, Sgt. Hing, Phil LaBrie, Father Roger Schmit, Rulon Stacey, Detective Sgt. Rob Debree, Jonas Slonaker –Cory J. O’Donnell+ Stephen Belber, Doc O’Connor, Matt Galloway, Bill McKinney, Conrad Miller, Andrew Gomez, Fred Phelps, Judge – Brandon Otten+ Anonymous Friend, Jon Peacock, Russell Henderson’s Mormon Home Teacher, Aaron McKinney, Aaron Kreifels, Judge, Newsperson – Patrick Parks+ Zackie Salmon, Leigh Fondakowski, Alison Mears, Romaine Patterson, Tiffany Edwards – Aisa Rogers+ Moisés Kaufman, Stephen Mead Johnson, Murdock Cooper, Dennis Shepard, Harry Woods, Cal Rerucha, Jeffrey Lockwood, Priest, Gil Engen – Sean Stalvey+ Amanda Gron

Source: Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Large-scale ‘The Laramie Project’ enveloping in Green Bay

Reminder: The Laramie Project will be streamed free, April 29 through May 2

UW-Green Bay’s Theatre’s The Laramie Project will be available to stream, on demand April 29 – May 2, 2021. The production is being presented for free but you must register for a ticket in order to receive the streaming link. Tickets can be requested by visiting the Theatre program page.

If you are a teacher, professor, or instructor and want to watch this production with a class or large group, please email Tricia Adams, Performing Arts Coordinator at adamst@uwgb.edu prior to watching.

PLEASE NOTE: This production contains adult content, strong language, and adult situations. Recommended for mature audiences.

Sheboygan Campus faculty member Thomas Campbell recognized among ‘Best Under 40’ | News Break

The top ten Sheboygan County Best Under 40 nominees will be recognized for their 2020 accomplishments on Thursday, May 13, 2021 at 5:30 p.m. Three awards will be given to the Top Young Professional of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, and Young Professional Community Volunteer of the Year. Among them being recognized is Associate Prof. Thomas Campbell (Theatre and Dance).

Source: Sheboygan Campus faculty member Thomas Campbell recognized among ‘Best Under 40’ | News Break

Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Online ‘The Laramie Project’ set in Green Bay | WFRV TV

Directed by Rebecca Stone Thornberry, UWGB Theatre’s production features a diverse cast with each actor playing multiple roles. The play contains more than 60 characters.

“A powerful production examining the prejudice and bias against the LGBTQ community, the play also offers hope by exploring our ability to rise above a tragedy, as well as inspiration that change and a more accepting culture can be achieved,” the press release says.

Source: Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Online ‘The Laramie Project’ set in Green Bay | WFRV TV

Students tap into their body in Center Stage High School Musical Theater Program’s workshop

Alan Kopischke was interviewed by channel five for a workshop he did for high school theatre students through the FCPAC Centre Stage program.

“Your physical presence can make an immediate impact on the audience before they even hear you say a word,” says UW-Green Bay lecturer Alan Kopischke.

Kopischke, who teaches Acting, Movement for the Actor, Shakespeare, and Arts Management at the university, led the one-hour Zoom workshop Tuesday night.

“We’ll talk about the weight, rate, rhythm and size of movement and how that can change the quality of the movement. We’ll go through some other exercises to explore interesting psychological things that might affect the way you move or stand. By the end of the class, we’ll hope to have built another physical character that’s different from the way they physically move,” says Kopischke.

Source: Students tap into their body in Center Stage High School Musical Theater Program’s workshop | wearegreenbay.com 

UW-Green Bay Theatre Closes Season of Social Awareness with The Laramie Project | Seehafer News

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Theatre program’s upcoming production, The Laramie Project will close out the 2020-21 season of plays designed to create social awareness.Written by Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Company, following an unimaginable crime—the murder of Matthew Shepard—The Laramie Project examines our ability to hate, love, and understand through the eyes of the citizens of Laramie, Wyoming.

Source: UW-Green Bay Theatre Closes Season of Social Awareness with The Laramie Project | Seehafer News

Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Some theaters play hardball in midst of COVID-19 pandemic

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – COVID-19 has had an impact on some of the plays in Northeastern Wisconsin.A hard edge has surfaced.Theater that plays hardball always is part of our scene, but recent productions came to be because of the pandemic.Manitowoc resident Kevin James Sievert created a one-man autobiography that explores everything from “A” for adoption to “Z” for zeal for fighting the odds.In “The Untitled Kevin Sievert Project,”(my review) this all was fresh, live and in-person at The Forst Inn in Tisch Mills.The price of activism was explosively explored by Milwaukee director Malkia Stampley and actors in and online production for Third Avenue Playhouse in Sturgeon Bay.Themes normally not in play in Door County gained access by way of the fiery “Sunset Baby”(review).Stunning in another way for Third Avenue Playhouse was a brilliant I-Phone performance of “Natural Shocks”(review) by Lauren Gunderson.The phrase was never used, but a key topic was gun control.University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Theatre captured the intensity of smoldering anger with “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992”(review).Its multimedia presentation brought a past violent protest to today.UWGB, Sheboygan Campus, Prof. Thomas Michael Campbell’s world premiere of “Faithfall”(review) included online discussion and resources.Explored were the complexities of the suicidal.April 29-May 2, UWGB Theatre will kick over another stone when it presents “The Laramie Project.” Info: uwgb.edu/theatre/.Relived online will be the probing and haunting story of Matthew Shepard.These productions wouldn’t have been done in the same way – if at all – were it not for creative answers to COVID-19 restrictions.***From my review for “Faithfall,” here is an example of the hardball ballpark:A nun commits suicide. The nun has a checkered past. The nun has an admired recent present.Her estranged biological sister and her colleague/priest try to sort out the nun and themselves as they bob roughly in her wake.That’s the gist of “Faithfall,” a tightly-wrapped play that is in its world-premiere presentation by way of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Theatre and Dance and COVID-19.Without the coronavirus, Thomas Michael Campbell’s play would not have been forced into a situation where valuable additional accesses are gained online. A preview segment introduces the players, the playwright and informational background materials. A post-show segment contains four experts speaking about the complexities of the suicidal, with the playwright noting his motivation:“Let’s use theater to talk about things we don’t want to talk about.” The play is theater with a purpose.

Source: Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Some theaters play hardball in midst of COVID-19 pandemic

UW-Green Bay Theatre Closes Season of Social Awareness with The Laramie Project

GREEN BAY—The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Theatre program’s upcoming production, The Laramie Project, will close out the 2020-21 season of plays designed to create social awareness.

Written by Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Company, following an unimaginable crime—the murder of Matthew Shepard—The Laramie Project examines our ability to hate, love, and understand through the eyes of the citizens of Laramie, Wyoming.

The product of more than 200 interviews with the citizens of Laramie, the catalyst for The Laramie Project was the 1998 murder of college student Matthew Shepard. Severely beaten, tied to a fencepost and left for dead in the middle of the Wyoming prairie, Matthew survived for several days before succumbing to his injuries. The motivation behind such a heinous crime: Matthew Shepard was gay. The Laramie Project chronicles the months that followed Matthew’s murder, as the citizens of Laramie sought to understand how such a crime could happen in their town and the Tectonic Theater interviewers questioned if Laramie is so different than any other town in America.

Directed by Rebecca Stone Thornberry, UW-Green Bay Theatre’s production of The Laramie Project features a diverse cast with each actor playing multiple roles. A powerful production examining the prejudice and bias against the LGBTQ community, the play also offers hope by exploring our ability to rise above a tragedy, as well as inspiration that change and a more accepting culture can be achieved.

Because this production presents such a powerful and timely message, the Theatre department will stream the production, free of charge, to increase its accessibility. The Laramie Project will be available to stream on-demand April 29-May 2, 2021. Registration is required to receive the streaming link. Audiences should note that the production contains adult content and strong language, including profanity and hate speech and is recommended for mature audiences. Additional information about the production and instructions to register for access to the streaming link can be found at www.uwgb.edu/theatre.

About UW-Green Bay
Established in 1965, UW-Green Bay is a public institution serving 8,970 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students and 95,000 continuing education learners each year. We educate students from pre- college through retirement and offer 200+ degrees, programs and certificates. UW-Green Bay graduates are resilient, inclusive, sustaining and engaged members of their communities, ready to rise to fearlessly face challenges, solve problems and embrace diverse ideas and people. With four campus locations, the University welcomes students from every corner of the world. In 2020, UW-Green Bay was the fastest-growing UW school in Wisconsin. For more information, visit www.uwgb.edu.

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After a disrupted 2020 season, Frank Hermans ready for return to stages, looks back on two decades of Let Me Be Frank Productions | Green Bay Press-Gazette

During a January show at the Ashwaubenon Performing Arts Center, UW-Green Bay alumnus Frank Hermans, the owner of Let Me Be Frank Productions, introduced the band. It was one of the first shows allowed since the pandemic and capacity was limited to scattered groups around the theater. The band, he said, hadn’t seen a paycheck in almost a year. For this show, a Frank’s Tribute performance, each member was getting paid $25.

He had majored in theater at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and was already making a mark in the community as a performer.

Source: After a disrupted 2020 season, Frank Hermans ready for return to stages, looks back on two decades of Let Me Be Frank Productions | Green Bay Press-Gazette

Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Students answer the call of challenges in ‘Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992’ | WFRV

The production comes with all kinds of disclaimers about perspectives, philosophies and profanities. “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992”(review) is about the infamous police beating of Rodney King and the deadly riots that erupted following an acquittal.

Right afterward, playwright Anna Deavere Smith interviewed hundreds of people and shaped a play based on responses by everyone from a congresswoman to perpetrators. UWGB Theatre’s online production is extraordinary for its scale and complexities.

Source: Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Students answer the call of challenges in ‘Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992’ | WFRV