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Rereading ‘Laramie’ In Randolph

  • From left, Susan Loynd, of Fayston, Vt., Hilary Mullins, of Bethel, and Samantha Loesch, of Waitsfield, Vt., rehearse for Saturday evening's staged reading of "The Laramie Project" at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph. (Courtesy photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/23/2019 9:59:55 PM
Modified: 1/23/2019 10:00:03 PM

While preparing to play several characters in this weekend’s staged reading of The Laramie Project at Randolph’s Chandler Music Hall, Hilary Mullins struggled the most to identify with the Baptist minister who declares the murder of Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard as God’s punishment for his gay lifestyle.

The pastor “has a theology that’s just about the most opposite of mine you can get,” Mullins, a writing coach who lives in Bethel, wrote during an exchange of emails this week. “But the characters in The Laramie Project are real people, and the lines we say are things they actually said, so when I practice their lines, I can start to get inside their feelings. I start to see what really matters to them, and it helps me begin to understand why they think and feel the way they do. Which means I start reacting less defensively than I would otherwise.

“I don’t just see them as my enemies.”

Which is, ultimately, the point of The Laramie Project. Playwright Moises Kaufman assembled it in 1999 from interviews his Tectonic Theatre Company conducted with more than 200 Laramie residents of many stripes and views, in the wake of the 1998 attack in which two drifters attacked Shepard, tied him to a fence in the country, and left him to die. It’s a natural for the Chandler’s Vermont Pride Theater, which has staged annual readings of plays with LGBTQ-related themes for almost a decade.

And if the 10-member cast of Randolph-area residents needed further incentive, the U.S. Supreme Court this week upheld the Trump administration’s ban of transgender people from the military.

“It’s a move,” Mullins wrote of the ban, “to sever human connection by categorizing one group as ‘other,’ rather than what they are: just people, people who have wishes and hopes and deep feelings and, oh, who want to serve their country! The ban is a kind of institutional violence, and that can lead to outright violence, the kind of violence that killed Matthew Shepard.”

Vermont Pride Theater stages The Laramie Projectat the Chandler Music Hall in Randolph on Saturday night at 7:30. Admission is $15 to $22 in advance and $17 to $24 the day of the show, with proceeds going to the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

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