Clockwise from top left: Sarah McKelvey

Clockwise from top left: Sarah McKelvey

Laramie revisited

Dover Bay students explore issues of tolerance in their last theatre production of the school year

Their minds were open as they flipped through the first few pages of their script.

But as the material sunk in, some of the opinions presented were difficult for the students to stomach.

The Laramie Project, staged by students in Dover Bay Secondary School’s senior performance academy, is based on interviews with people from the small American town where an 18-year-old man was beaten to death because of his homosexuality.

The students had to at first understand their characters, some of whom spouted anti-gay beliefs, before they could play them.

“Your own views get into the play when you read it,” said Sam Norcutt. “Someone’s negativity, in my view, can be someone else’s positivity.”

To help prepare for the challenging material, classes began with drama teacher Hugh Anderson asking the students a moral question, such as their views on capital punishment, which the students openly shared with one another.

“There’s no right or wrong answer to the question,” said Mathew Walker.

It’s the same view the play takes by simply presenting all sides of the community of Laramie rather than preaching a certain viewpoint.

“That’s been our goal as well,” said Jacob Nagrocki.

With so much emphasis put on acceptance, the students hope the audience comes in with the same attitude.

“It’s important to us that the audience comes in with an open mind,” said Katelyn Wood.

The play contains no stage direction or notes for the actors, so the students played with different ideas and concepts before Anderson decided to use theatre-in-the-round style.

“We turned them into scenes in the community,” Wood said. “We made sure it was interesting to look at and interesting to listen to.”

In-the-round, with the audience sitting on four sides, requires more awareness from the actor on direction they are facing, body language and what the audience sees.

“Not everyone can see everyone’s face but that’s how you see the world,” Wood said.

Although their teacher is their director and as such has the final say, the students were free to add their own ideas to the production.

“It’s been a real learning experience in the acting part and in the directional part,” Walker said.

Anderson, who is retiring at the end of the year, said he wasn’t going to allow his last show to be an easy one.

“He thought we had the right group of people that we could pull off a more serious show,” Nagrocki said.

Anderson’s students said they feel the added pressure to make their beloved teacher proud.

“I’m pretty sure he’s already proud of us,” Norcutt said.

The play runs June 9-11 at Dover Bay Secondary School. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., with show at 7 p.m. Tickets $8; $6/students at the school office or the door.

Because of strong language and mature themes, children under 14 years of age must be accompanied by a guardian.

For more information, please call 250-756-4595.

arts@nanaimobulletin.com