Returning to Stage to Make a Difference

North Theatre Uses Return to Stage to Make a Difference
Posted on 04/07/2021
Appleton North Theatre students are cherishing the opportunity to finally take the stage together again for their upcoming production of The Laramie Project, the powerful and poignant story of a seemingly average community in the aftermath of a hate crime that attracted worldwide attention. The production marks the first time since last spring—when the entire run of their spring musical Matilda was canceled hours before opening night due to the Covid lockdown—that cast and crew have been able to gather together to stage, rehearse, and perform a production. Director Ron Parker feels the message of The Laramie Project is more important now than ever, and a way for students to put their focus on giving during a time when they have experienced so much taken away. “By using their gifts to help others and make a difference, they are also helping themselves,” Parker said. “They are creating some good out of so much bad.”

Hailed as one of the most captivating and encompassing pieces of contemporary theatre, the play shocks, challenges, and moves audiences as it reveals the lowest depths of hatred and greatest heights of compassion that lie within all human beings in almost any community. It is the story of what happened among Laramie residents after October 1998, when Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay student at the University of Wyoming, was brutally beaten and murdered. The particulars of the hate crime and subsequent trial polarized the nation to the issue of sexual discrimination and violence. The New York-based Tectonic Theater Project traveled to Laramie in the aftermath of the murder with the intent of creating a theatrical portrait of a town coming to grips with hate-fueled intolerance. Over the course of a year and a half, the group interviewed more than 200 subjects, some directly related to the case and some regular citizens of Laramie. Out of these interviews, journal entries, and found texts, the documentary-style play The Laramie Project was born.

“The message of The Laramie Project is one that continues to be relevant today: that only by standing up to injustice and bigotry through example and education can there be hope for change,” Parker said. “The students who make up the cast and crew of The Laramie Project have taken such a stand. They believe change is possible and that the legacy of Matthew Shepard’s story must live on.”

North’s production of The Laramie Project will be livestreamed for audiences on April 29, April 30, and May 1 at 7 p.m., and on May 2 at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $10 per streaming device, and can be purchased beginning April 12 on the North Theatre website at www.appletonnorththeatre.org. All streamed performances will be followed by a talk back on the issues raised by the play and how they impact our community.

The Laramie Project deals with mature subject matter, and is recommended for ages 13 and older. For more information, contact Ron Parker, director, at 920-832-4300 or parkerronaldc@aasd.k12.wi.us.

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When the Show Must Go On…Online
Recognizing the importance of the arts to theatre students as well as audiences during this unprecedented past year, North Theatre found a way to go on even when school was still fully virtual. With almost all co-curricular programs on hold at schools last fall, North students competed in the Wisconsin High School Theatre Festival's One-Act play competition which, like so many activities, was held virtually for the first time in its history. Cast and crew worked hard to reinvent how they designed and implemented staging, lighting, costuming, and sound for each cast member participating from their homes.

The format was both an opportunity and challenge for students to adapt to a format that was new even to professionals. The students were also working to uphold a legacy, and it paid off. North Theatre was awarded the top honor of Critic’s Choice at the festival for its twenty-second consecutive year, the only school to accomplish such a feat in the history of the festival.

It’s said that laughter is the best medicine, and Improvedy, Appleton’s only high school improvisational comedy troupe, offered a big dose of it during their first performance of the school year recently. The troupe performed on stage together in front of a limited and socially-distant audience, and the show was live-streamed to a much larger audience on the program’s YouTube channel.

The troupe performs games and sketches in the style of the hit television show Whose Line Is It Anyway?, and two more performances are scheduled this spring: May 7 and June 4 at 7:30 p.m.

North’s Drama Club also offered it’s popular Drama Day theatre workshop online for the first time last month for kids in grades 1-3. North students plan and lead the workshops using fun drama games and activities to teach kids how actors prepare for the parts they play and what happens backstage in the theatre.

Two more workshops are offered this spring: For grades 4-6 on April 17 from 9-11 a.m., and for grades 6-8 on May 22 from 9-11 a.m. More information on all North Theatre activities can be found at www.appletonnorththeatre.org.