The 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.