The Understanding of Lifestyles – The Laramie Project
The Laramie project captured the audience’s attention by utilizing different design methods on stage. This included sound, stage and hand properties, light, and music. With an ensemble of 10 actors playing over 30 roles, this proved to be an amazing play to experience. The playwright was constructed in a clear manner, which eliminated the confusion of “who is who.” Through the usage of the stage elements as well as the dynamics of each character, this brought about an effective plot.
The first element that made the play dramatic was the sound effects. The sound of the “Wyoming wind” was constant throughout the whole play, but as emotional scenes and climaxes occurred, the sound of wind was intensely noticeable. I believe it was Misha Johnson that played the character of Matthew Shepard’s good friend, as she was expressing her emotions about how she could not believe how people could do that to one of her best friends, and how Matthew or as his friends called him, “Matt” – was just looking for a friend to relate with in the world. The scene was particularly dramatic in the sense that the amplitude of the wind increased, the actor became emotional and angry all at once, and as Misha finished her lines in sorrow, the sound of wind was all that was left. The directors, designers, and actors all combined made an impacting decision to have the “Wyoming wind” present throughout the play. All of these factors successfully conveyed to the audience that everyone in the town was affected by this hate crime. Which left the end of the first act intense, dramatic, and touching all inspired by sound effects.
As the sound effects were impacting, another element that influenced The Laramie Project, were the usage of properties – generally known as “props”. The first visual provided was of course the set and stage. The set was designed in a way that was very versatile and yet, still convey a serious message. By versatile, I am implying that the open-stage with two ramps crossing each other in the background was plain and simple but served a purpose of several scenes – such as a bar, church, and even a funeral. A set prop that were a key pieces in the play were the wooden benches, these made it possible for the actors to switch scenes. Some examples on the usage of the benches were when they stacked two benches one on top of another and turned it into a bar, they turned the bench in a vertical position and created a podiums to express different religions, or setting the benches in a close and aligned design to create a church. Other props that influenced the scenes were snow, umbrellas, then using the umbrellas as angel wings, and of course lighting. Instead of building entire sets, or making the audience use their imagination with no props included in the play, the set designers and directors created visuals that were ordinary objects and interacted the audience to use their imagination and “build” the appropriate set for the scene in their minds. I believe by keeping a low budget, the designers of The Laramie Project accomplished a bigger impact on the audience with a simple-low-budget set rather than an expensive-big-fancy set.
Props and sound effects were not the only major influences for this greatly constructed play, but also the performance of the song, “Amazing Grace” sung by the entire cast was emotionally moving. The cast first begins to sing in the cemetery scene at Matthew’s funeral at a medium volume, as a “protester” starts preaching anti-homosexuality – the volume of the singing then lowers and gradually turns into humming which allows the audience to hear the angry man. The song, “Amazing Grace” by itself arouses a lot of emotions out of people – the directors made an excellent decision integrating the singing along with the provided visual of Matthew’s funeral. As the funeral was segueing towards the last few acts, the singing and humming was constant – parallel to the Wyoming wind. This made it twice as impacting by combining key elements that would be compelling individually. The directors accomplished connecting the play to the audience and allowing the audience to feel emotions, as if they attended the funeral. The reason I can say such a general statement, is because I noticed the audience around me – both males and females were wiping tears away towards the end, including myself.
Throughout the play, there is a level of intensity that can be seen. Sound effects, lightning and props help make the story seem intensely realistic. It helped engage the audience’s attention and emotions throughout the entire play. It is as though we are living vicariously through these characters. With these characters, there is a life lesson to be learned. We create education in favor of ourselves from which we learn and journey to travel through time and time again. The playwright leaves an impression on our lives, which is to say that as society moves on, so should our paths that lead to greater understanding. A project such as moving on as a society and gaining better understanding of people and their lifestyles are elements the entire cast and the playwright has presented, a project that is appropriately entitled – The Laramie Project.