Leyden's address paints picture of life dedicated to fostering hate

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Cast members bring to life a heinous murder in small town.

Gail Koch, News Editor

With +â-¼The Laramie Project,+â-« a cast of 12 Ball State students takes a closer look at the effects of Matthew Shepard+â-¡s murder on the people of Laramie, Wyo.

For senior Kathryn Gilbert, the opportunity to play a handful of roles in the production has been an eye-opening experience.

+â-¼Theater has the power to change people and make people think,+â-« Gilbert said. +â-¼This play is important because it forces you to take a closer look at the way people are treated in this country. Not just on their sexual orientation, but on any aspect that makes up a person.+â-«

Gilbert is one of 12 cast members in the production who portray more than 60 residents of Laramie who were interviewed by playwright Moises Kaufman after the Matthew Shepard murder.

+â-¼I+â-¡ve never had the opportunity to play a real person before, so it+â-¡s a bit of a different experience,+â-« Gilbert said. +â-¼One of my characters is a professor from the University of Wyoming, so I actually was able to do some research on her and find her biography online beforehand.+â-«

For Gilbert, the town of Laramie is similar to small towns across the country, particularly Muncie.

+â-¼We address the issue in the play that Laramie could be any town and that this could happen anywhere,+â-« Gilbert said. +â-¼The first thing you see is a Wal-Mart, and I think that+â-¡s one of the play+â-¡s strong points.

+â-¼It forces people to take a look at how their own town would react to or try to prevent something like this from happening.+â-«

Senior David Behrns said participating in +â-¼The Laramie Project+â-« has been a powerful reminder that hatred and bigotry still exist in America.

+â-¼Before we began practice, I started doing research on hate crimes and was surprised at how many people out there have such a strong bias against gays,+â-« Behrns said. +â-¼The moments that get to me in the play are those that stand out when people say, +âThis was someone+â-¡s son, a member of someone+â-¡s family.+â-¡

+â-¼It becomes a really personal, close experience to hear what these people have to say.+â-«

Bill Jenkins, director, first pitched the idea of performing +â-¼The Laramie Project+â-« last year while participating in the College of Fine Arts planning committee for UniverCity.

+â-¼I had just heard Moises Kaufman speak at a conference and thought he was fascinating,+â-« Jenkins said. +â-¼What he did with +â-¼The Laramie Project+â-« was incredibly moving and life-changing in so many respects.+â-«

Behrns said he has no doubts that Kaufman, who will speak after today+â-¡s 7 p.m. performance, will be impressed at how hard the actors worked during the past two months.

+â-¼I think everyone in the show is really excited for Moises to be coming,+â-« Behrns said. +â-¼We+â-¡ve had such a strong response so far, and I think it+â-¡s only going to continue.+â-«

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