Hinsdale Central theater revisits ‘Laramie’
Hinsdale Central's Drama Club rehearses for "The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later." "This play needs the intimacy," says director Sonia Gecker. "There's no illusion to this, it's raw." | Jerry Daliege~for Sun-Times Media
What: The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later
Where: Hinsdale Central High School auditorium, 55th and Grant streets, Hinsdale
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15; 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16; and 7 p.m. Saturday Nov. 17
Tickets: cost $7, call (630) 570-8165 for reservations. The play contains sensitive material and language, audience discretion advised.
Updated: December 16, 2012 6:15AM
HINSDALE — Hinsdale Central students will portray how a town responded to and recovered from a murder in its community.
The Hinsdale Central Drama Club is performing, “The Laramie Project, 10 Years Later,” this week. The play is an epilogue to “The Laramie Project,” about the murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student, in Laramie, Wyo., in 1998.
The production’s dialogue and staging will be different from most high school plays.
“It’s interview theater,” said Sonia Gecker, the English and theater teacher who directs the play. “Every single word was spoken in actual interviews with real people who live in Laramie.”
She advised the student actors how to portray real people with their own words.
“We talked a lot about truth being at the core of everything,” Gecker said. “Rather than playing stereotypes, like ‘I’m the governor, so this is how I act’ or ‘I’m in prison, so this is how I act,’ subtlety and honesty will honor the words of the people.”
Gecker helped sophomore Parker Klebenow prepare for the role of Aaron McKinney, the man who brutally beat Shepard and, with an accomplice, left him tied to a fence to die.
“No one condones his choices . . . he shows no remorse,” Gecker said. But, “as an actor, you can’t be judging the character.”
Klebenow said he has to mentally prepare before he assumes his role.
“When I think about being another person, I don’t want to disrespect them,” Klebenow said. “I believe (Aaron) believes he is a good person.”
But some of Aaron’s quotes from his prison interview are “chilling,” Klebenow said.
Olivia Leone, who plays Matthew’s mother, Judy Shepard, read news articles and watched interviews with her posted online.
“I don’t want to do it wrong,” Leone said. “It’s such a mature show, we can’t do this wrong.”
“The Laramie Project” is relevant to Hinsdale, too, Leone said. “This could be your story, this could be your town.”
The play will be performed in the round, with the audience seated on the stage encircling the performance.
“We thought in the round would give that sense of community and make the audience feel part of the community,” Gecker said. “As if these conversations weren’t happening separate from them. They’re conversations they are part of. It’s a very intimate show.”
After each performance, there will be a dialogue between the cast, members of the school’s Breaking Down Walls, Antibullying Club, and Gay Straight Alliance, and anyone in the audience who wants to participate.
“Whenever you do a show like this, it’s important to have a way to digest it,” Gecker said.