Audience Reactions to "The Laramie Project"

Just a few of the reactions we've gotten from audience members who have already seen The Laramie Project.


Lisa Brecht:

I’m so glad you decided to produce a show like this.  I’ve never heard of it, even though I know of the tragedy of Matthew Shepherd. It’s a brilliant idea and Mr. Neu presented it very well.  He had the theater in tears…I found it especially moving that the actors moved even themselves to tears.

Sue Ehlenfelt:

Just got home from seeing The Laramie Project. Yes, I did wonder if I would like this play or not. But did go with an open mind and also remembering that in all the years I have gone to Lyric Arts I have never been totally disappointed in a play and left saying I wish I had not come.

I enjoyed the play, much to my surprise. Why I should be surprised with Lyric Arts, I haven't figured out yet. The 12 actors were out standing and very strong in their roles. The stage setting and lightening were great and the closing act brought the tears to my eyes.  I was sorry to see such an empty house (first time in all

my years) and even more sorry to think what a great and meaningful play people are missing out on when not willing to take a chance.

Thank you for taking a chance and a big thank you to the director and all involved in this production.

Sue Dergantz:

It was the most moving show I've seen to date - anywhere.

Glen Semanko:

Saw it last Saturday.  WOW!!!!  It was riveting!!  I don't think I took a breath during the entire two hours for fear of missing something.  It was an outstanding performance by everyone involved!

Laura Bidgood:

See. This. Show! Directed by the incredible Robert Neu and with performances by some of my favorite actors - Nick Menzhuber, Debbie Swanson, Corey Okonek, Grif Sadow, Emily Picardi - It's a true ensemble piece spectacularly directed with truthful, real performances, an excellent lighting design by Dan Thorson, and a unique and a thoughtful set by Brian J Proball. It is just a solid and moving evening of theater, revisiting an event that happened 15 years ago, but is yet so relevant today.

Amy Hennen:

Just came home from watching this amazing show. Absolutely stunning performances by an incredible cast. Moving and powerful with an important message. If you don't have tickets yet, buy them now

Chris Berglund:

Great show and cast!

Why "The Laramie Project?"

Dear friends: Laura_headshot2

I had planned to write this post much, much earlier in the week, but it has been such a busy week getting ready to open The Laramie Project. Many members of the Lyric Arts community have questioned our choice to open our season with this show and I wanted to take just a moment, before I slip on my opening night dress, to address those questions.

When Bob Neu (one of our two Resident Directors) brought this show to me as a possibility for our 2013-2014 season, I had to think long and hard about whether it was a good choice for this theater and for this community.

Let me preface this by saying that while I am not from Anoka, nor do I live here, I have grown to love this city over the last ten years. I have become a part of this community and Anoka feels much more like my hometown than the city in which I live, which is just a little ways south.

I was familiar with the play as it focuses on the death of Matthew Shepard and the conviction of his killers, but I needed to take the time to go back and re-read it, being mindful of questions like, “Why now? Why at Lyric Arts? Is any of this even relevant 15 years later?” As I worked my way through the script, I was struck by the similarities between Laramie, Wyoming, and Anoka, Minnesota…and not in the ways you might think.

In the script, one of the townspeople remarks that Laramie will forever be branded as the place where this tragedy occurred. There has been a lot of media attention focused on Anoka over the last 18 months or so, with regard to anti-bullying initiatives, the tragic death of some of our young people, and Anoka-Hennepin School District’s neutrality policy. When this story hit the national stage, Rolling Stone called Anoka a town that was at war with its own teens. Now, no matter what Anoka does in the next 15 years, this city will always be known as “that city.”

I find that to be tragic. My Anoka, the Anoka that I have come to love, is so much more than that.

For me, The Laramie Project is important for this community because it is as much about the town of Laramie in the aftermath of tragedy as it was about the tragedy itself. It is about a community made up of people with every possible viewpoint and how they find closure and healing in the wake of terrible events and about how something positive can come out of something negative. This play is not convenient fiction or a dramatization. This play is a live documentary; it is real life presented in the real words of the people in that community.

This play focuses on the death of a gay college student and has become known as a play that brings the struggles of the GLBT community to the forefront. But, without downplaying the horrifying tragedy of Matthew’s death, while re-reading the script 15 years later, in light of local and national conversations, this play is about so much more than that.

The Laramie Project is overwhelmingly and whole-heartedly anti-hate, anti-bullying, and anti-violence in all forms. It preaches a world view that encourages us to look upon one another with kindness, understanding, compassion, and acceptance, regardless of race, religion, sex, weight, age, and (yes) sexual orientation.

How could anybody disagree with that? And, what kind of world would we live in if we weren’t striving to be respectful of others, to love one another, no matter how different they might seem? That is what The Laramie Project challenges us to examine within our own hearts and minds.

So, “Why, now?” and “Why at Lyric Arts?” and “Why is this relevant?” Because it is simply the right thing to do.

I will freely admit that this show will not be everyone’s cup of tea. Lyric Arts works hard to offer something for everyone. And, if this is not the show for you, that’s okay. We completely understand, and hope that you will be just as excited to attend something in our season that is more to your liking.

But, if you are willing to be open minded and take a chance on something unfamiliar to you, you might just be surprised at how much you identify with the people you see on stage and just how moved you are by what they have to say. I know that I have been. And, I know I will be again this evening.

Sincerely, Laura_sig Laura Tahja Johnson Managing Artistic Director





Laramie Project Director Robert Neu brings innovative staging to the Lyric

Bob-NeuThe nationally esteemed Laramie Project is coming to the Lyric Arts Main Street Stage this fall,with Resident Director Robert Neu bringing a new innovative staging. Laramie tells the story of murdered gay college student Matthew Shepard through a documentary style script. This deeply moving, award winning play explores the depths to which humanity can sink, and the heights of compassion to which it can soar. Director Robert Neu is using his tools -- smart actors, stunning lighting and poignant sound design -- to present a piece of theater like no other. Robert is leading six actors, who play more than 50 roles, in this unusual production built on a series of interviews about the real life murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard. Robert is quick to point out that the story is not about the homicide itself, but the aftermath in the community of Laramie. The actual murder and related violence are not depicted in the show. At the heart of The Laramie Project we find people much like ourselves asking difficult questions about who they are and who they wish to be. Matthew Shepard was killed 15 years ago this fall. One might think, or even hope that the show and subject matter would feel dated. Robert and the Lyric Arts staff chose to open the season with Laramie because it, unfortunately, does not feel in the least bit dated. “It is so relevant to today’s human rights issues,” remarks Robert, “people today are asking themselves same questions: how do I personally feel about gay rights? How might I speak my truth? How do I remain respectful of differing opinions?”

The Laramie Project presents this story in an utterly original and unique way. The puzzle of monologues travel over time and place, allowing the audience to piece the story together as it progresses. The monologues themselves are powerful. “They have been moving the actors to cry during our rehearsals,” says Robert. Additionally, he is taking that emotion to a new level by adding choreographed movement and a stirring sound track to give the audience a fully theatrical experience. There will be a little of everything, from rock and roll to church hymns.

All of this is to say that Robert is promising an experience like the audiences at Lyric Arts have never had. He hopes that it will spur civilized conversation and debate around how we, as a community, learn to accept and honor our differences.

Robert Neu regularly directs musicals, plays and operas throughout the country. His productions have been seen in Cincinnati, Virginia, New York, and on the Lyric Arts Main Street Stage. For the Minnesota Orchestra he has directed productions of Candide, Fidelio, Hansel and Gretel, Tosca (starring Deborah Voigt), Carmen and La Boheme. Most recently, he worked with Minnesota Orchestra’s Music Director, Osmo Vanska, in directing his own adaption of Peer Gynt which incorporated Ibsen’s text and Grieg’s incidental music. Robert holds degrees from the University of Kansas and The Juilliard School.

Auditions for The Laramie Project

Director: Robert Neu

Auditions: Tuesday, June 25, 7:00p.m.–10:00 p.m.

Wednesday, June 26, 7:00p.m.–10:00 p.m.

Callbacks: Saturday, June 29, 2:00p.m.–5:00 p.m.

Performance Dates: September 6-22, 2013 11 total performances

Character Breakdown: Seeking 12 actors (6 men, 6 women) of all types ranging from 20’s to 60’s.  This cast of 12 will portray more than 60 different characters.

Audition Information: For your audition, please prepare two dramatic and contrasting contemporary monologues.

Synopsis: In October 1998, a twenty-one-year-old student from the University of Wyoming was kidnapped, severely beaten, tied to a fence in the middle of the prairie outside Laramie, Wyoming, and left to die. In the aftermath of the incident, a group of writers made six trips to Laramie over the course of a year and a half and conducted more than 200 interviews with people directly connected to the case and other citizens of the town. The result is a “live documentary” constructed from these interviews and their own experiences. This deeply moving play is a breathtaking theatrical collage that explores the depths to which humanity can sink and the heights of compassion of which we are capable.