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11 March 2020
By LOTTE REITER
Horsham’s Amy Anselmi vividly remembers the first time she saw The Laramie Project on stage.
As the show closed and seats became empty, all she could do was sit.
“I sat there, in the theatre, for something like 20 minutes in the end. Until all the seats were empty,” she said.
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“I was so moved. There was so much to think about and process because it was such a powerful, affecting piece of theatre. And it has just stayed with me since.”
The Laramie Project – a stripped back unravelling of small American town Laramie’s reaction to a hate crime against a gay university student 22 years ago – has been performed across the globe since debuting 20 years ago.
And Ms Anselmi, who has been eager to direct the show for the decade following her first encounter, is now at the helm of an 11-person cast preparing to perform at Horsham Town Hall next month.
Smart Artz Theatre will present three performances of The Laramie Project, including one morning preview performance and one 8pm performance on Friday, April 17, followed by another 8pm performance on April 18.
Ms Anselmi said the ‘complex but simple’ play was one Wimmera audiences ‘deserved’ to see.
“The Laramie Project brings a multitude of themes and discussions into play, and the way that is achieved is what makes it such a great piece of theatre. Horsham deserves to see great and dramatic theatre,” she said.
“This play might make people upset, at times it might make them angry, but it will certainly move audiences and make people think.
“But in a small-ish town like Horsham, and particularly one that’s so similar to Laramie where all this occurred, we should be having the conversations that this particular play evokes.
“If putting on this play is a small step in the way of allowing the community to further understand the difference between tolerance and acceptance, I’m really glad that Smart Artz can be part of that.”
Ms Anselmi said while The Laramie Project was technically a play created in response to the murder of gay student Matthew Shephard, it was ‘not a play about homosexuality itself’.
Instead, she said it was about the effect on and reactions of a small American town following the occurrence of hate crime in general.
“It’s about how a town responds to that type of tragedy,” she said.
“This was a worldwide event, and for a town, which is not so much different from Horsham, to get all this sudden media and international attention was overwhelming.
“The play features a compilation of hundreds of interviews with Laramie locals, transcribed media material and journal entries, and as an audience member, you get to meet the people who lived in Laramie at the time, the people who knew Shephard and those who didn’t.
“Every emotion and theme, from adversity to forgiveness and compassion is represented in this play. But it’s not a play that presses a point of view on its audience, it only presents the reactions to and stories of what happened from a range of views and allows the audience to decide what they want to make of that.
“Everyone will have a very different and really personal response to it.”
Typically a small-cast play, the original show – directed by Moisés Kaufman and members of New York theatre group Tectonic Theater Project – involved just eight actors.
Horsham’s Smart Artz Theatre version will feature 11 actors, who, due to the nature of the play, will portray between them more than 60 characters through minimal props and costumes.
Ms Anselmi said this included Beau Ladlow, Simon Risson, Larissa Riddell, Fiona Blair, Jonny Dutaillis, Carl Gasparini, Jayden Robertson, Madeline Dymke, Catherine Bates, Ethan Jolly and Alayna Toporzisek.
“It is a small cast, but we’ve found that having 11 actors is a great opportunity for them to really showcase their talent, because playing a role in The Laramie Project means transforming from one character to another, often in the span of 30 seconds,” she said.
“It’s all done through a change of posture, how they stand, the way they walk, talk, and just a few props.
“It’s also really minimal in the way of backdrops and on-stage settings, too.
“I think that is another big reason why I was drawn to putting on this show; I don’t think you necessarily need all the bells and whistles in theatre to create a show that is engaging and meaningful. I actually really like this type of theatre that doesn’t just put it all out there for you.”
Ms Anselmi said Smart Artz Theatre was partnering with Wimmera Pride Project as part of the show.
She said this would see Wimmera Pride Project committee members at each performance and after, to provide audience members someone to talk to if they felt the need.
Ms Anselmi said Smart Artz Theatre cast, production members and Wimmera Pride Project committee members would also be hosting a free, 45-minute question-and-answer session following the Friday morning preview performance for people to talk about the play, its themes and the conversations it prompts.
People can buy tickets for The Laramie Project at Horsham Town Hall box office, online at www.horshamtownhall.com.au or by calling 5382 9555.
The entire March 11, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!