Desert Academy Performing Arts Mounts Acclaimed Play
“The Laramie Project”
Students Explore Controversial Social Topic
Original Author/Cast Member Offers Support
Desert Academy will present “The Laramie Project” by Moises Kaufman and the Members of the Tectonic Theater Project in late April. Department Chair Randy Bennett will direct. Mr. Bennett’s Theater class produces the show. The show is being presented in the performance space at Desert Academy. Performances are April 29, 30 and May 1 at 7:30pm.
“The Laramie Project” is about the 1998 hate crime murder of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay college student. The members of the Tectonic Theater Project interviewed over 200 citizens of Laramie, Wyoming over a period of a year and a half. The play is based on those interviews. Tectonic Theater Project is an award-winning company that is dedicated to developing innovative works that explore theatrical language and form, fostering an artistic dialogue with their audiences on the social, political and human issues that affect us all. Moisés Kaufman and Jeffrey LaHoste founded tectonic Theater Project in 1991. Tectonic refers to the art and science of structure and was chosen to emphasize the company’s interest in construction– how things are made, and how they might be made differently.
“I chose this play because my students wanted to do something contemporary that had social relevance,” says Mr. Bennett. “Several recent incidents in the news show that hate is alive and well in this nation. I think it is important to address these issues with students and motivate them to dialogue and write.”
“Now that Desert Academy is an International Baccalaureate School, studying literature with important social messages certainly fits our IB mission. Randy Bennett’s choice of ‘The Laramie Project’ resonates strongly with that mission,” said Terry Passalacqua, Head of School at Desert.
Andy Paris, one of the creators/writers and original cast members, came to Desert Academy last fall to talk to students about the play. He was in Santa Fe to kick off the premiere of the new “Laramie Project” piece at the Lensic that marked the 10th anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard. With the help of Connie Schaekel at the Lensic, Mr. Bennett was able to invite him to Desert. “He was very impressed with the students and offered to help with our production. It has been a wonderful asset to have this kind of support,” Bennett said. “We have been in weekly contact for a couple of months.” Mr. Paris, who lives in New York City, has been working with Bennett’s new concepts and ideas for this production.
Mr. Bennett has worked professionally both in Los Angeles and New York. He started as an actor in film and television but is best known for his contributions to The Groundlings, LA’s premiere comedy improv company. He has taught improvisation to over 3,000 students including George Clooney, Helen Hunt and J.J. Abrams, creator of the TV series Lost and director of the motion picture Star Trek. He has also been an agent, casting director, theater producer and television director in Los Angeles. This is his sixth year at Desert Academy where he chairs the performing arts department and teaches theater, film and comedy improv.
The cast includes Noelle Barnes, Rikki Carroll, Maredith Davis, Isaac Green, Anton Gress, Ian Sproul, Lily Tiarks and Chance Willey who play over 60 characters. Aba Weberjones is the assistant director.
The play will be performed in the Desert Academy performance space at 313 Camino Alire. Performances are Thursday, April 29th, Friday, April 30th and Saturday, May 1st at 7:30pm. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. Tickets may be purchased in advance by calling Desert Academy at 992-8284 and at the door. Cash or checks only. Seating is limited! This play contains mature language and themes and may not be appropriate for young children. For more information contact Randy Bennett at 992-8284 ext. 26 or email@example.com.