Senior Project leads to role in The Laramie Project

We saw this story by Sheila Ring from the Onida Watchman out of South Dakota and wanted to share it with you as it shows the power that The Laramie Project and The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later plays have on students and communities.

One of the requirements for Sully Buttes High School seniors is to complete a Senior Project – an exploration of a profession that gives students valuable insight into career possibilities.

For her Senior Project, Dakota Feller contacted the Pierre Players to see if they were open to having her create the set of their next play. At their first meeting during auditions for the play, Dakota and Anne Rathbun, director of The Laramie Project, realized they already knew each other since Anne had judged Dakota’s District and Regional Oral Interp contests. “She judged both of my pieces and told me that I needed to audition for the play. I kept thinking I wouldn’t have enough time, but she convinced me,” said Dakota about her meeting with Anne.

After landing the role of Romaine Patterson in the play, Dakota changed the emphasis of her project to acting. “Mrs. Aaker was okay with whatever I chose to do. She was really supportive.”

And although she had changed the emphasis of her project, Dakota had the privilege of gaining knowledge in both directing and acting. “I shadowed Anne more as an actor, but it was interesting to see how she directed the play.”

For her Senior Project, Dakota will be performing one of the monologues from the play.

As a child, Dakota had roles in the productions of the Missoula Children’s Theater which came to Onida for several years in the late 90s and early 00s. “I did three plays for them when I was little and I loved it.”

“It was a big deal to us,” said Dakota about the parts she played in the Blunt Elementary music programs. “We always wanted the big parts and then memorized them.”

The Laramie Project probes issues like violence; discrimination; the role of class, tradition, and religion; media sensationalism; criminal justice; and the identity of small communities. Pierre Players will be the first community theater in the Dakotas to stage the show that uncovered the human face of Laramie, WY.

In October 1998, gay student Matthew Shepard was kidnapped, beaten, and left to die, tied to a fence outside Laramie, WY. Five weeks later, the members of the Tectonic Theater Project went to Laramie and conducted more than 200 interviews with the people of the town. Weaving these voices together, they wrote The Laramie Project, a chronicle of how a small western community reacted to a tragedy that became a national event.

The ten member cast will perform a number of roles against a very minimal backdrop. Technology will be used to suggest the different locations the interviews took place.

The Pierre Players production is dealing with a far more serious subject than any of the plays Dakota has participated in for Sully Buttes. Other differences Dakota observed between a Pierre Players production and ones she has participated in at SBHS is the increased number of practices and the tight agenda for practices. There has been a professional photographer who has taken pictures of rehearsals and utilizes them in marketing the play. Community members of all ages will be performing roles in The Laramie Project – “I also only knew two people in the play to begin with which was really strange. I know everyone pretty well now.”

About The Laramie Project, Dakota wants everyone to know that it “does not promote any political ideas. It does not promote any specific religion either. The script is based on a series of interviews with real people and we have all opinions on many subjects. It is the audience that must form an opinion.”

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