The Laramie Project
Twenty five residents of Chiang Mai – men, women, old, young, gay, straight, Thai, multinational – have spent the past month and a half rehearsing for an upcoming theatrical production, “The Laramie Project.”
Everything about this project is intense, starting with the play itself, a docudrama about the real life torture and murder of a 21-year-old gay student in Laramie, Wyoming in 1998. Members of the Tectonic Theater Project in New York conducted hundreds of interviews with inhabitants of the town, following what was classed as a hate crime, and the play itself is an edited presentation which portrays up to sixty characters – interviews with relatives of the victim, transcripts from confessions of the killers, quotes from Westborough Church’s Reverend Phelps as he gay bashed his way into the limelight, comments from neighbours, sound bites from news reporters as their words came together to form a mosaic of a story which was to resonate around the world.
Director Stephan Turner has put together a team of actors, many of whom are, or were, professional actors in their previous incarnations, while others are first time amateurs, and the rehearsals – often up to four nights a week – are gruelling for a town where most lead fairly lackadaisical lifestyles.
The Gate Theater Group has put on nine productions over the past six years including a re-staging of their first show “The Dodo Bird” which closed on 7th April of this year and then travelled to Chiang Rai for one weekend of performances. The group hopes to grow to attract more actors and a bigger audience, but also to begin to play a role in Chiang Mai as a significant voice which will reflect many social and cultural issues and, hopefully, bridge the cultural gap between the English speaking expat community and the Thai community.
“The words of the speakers in The Laramie Project are rife with compassion, sadness, anger, disbelief, shock, intolerance, hatred, and hope,” says Turner. “The values of a community, and the country at large, are on full display as its residents react to the murder of one of its young men – one of its gay young men – by two other young men of their town. Their comments run the gamut of beliefs and actions that define Laramie as a community.”
The Laramie Project is The Gate Theater Group’s most ambitious and daunting endeavour to date, since its inception in 2007. The record-size cast and crew for the production is comprised of actors and stagehands in the Chiang Mai community who hail from numerous countries, reflecting the international composition of the Chiang Mai expat community.
The cast and crew members are teachers, students, NGO workers and business people, along with retired folks of little leisure, who must carve out time from their active volunteer schedules to learn their parts and rehearse.
“The Gate Theater Group’s presentation of The Laramie Project will be a dramatic production such has never been seen in Chiang Mai before,” says Turner. “We promise.”
Tickets can be bought for a recommended donation of 270 baht at Kad Suan Kaew’s information desk.
Shows start at 7 p.m. on 17th, 18th and 19th October with a matinee at 2 p.m. on Sunday 20th October. For more information visit www.gate-theater.com.