A place on stage
Mary Duttweiler felt at home on the stage before she could even read a script.
“My sister was in a play when I was 4 or 5 and they needed little kids as extras,” says the junior theatre arts major from Lovejoy. “After that, I was bitten by the 'bug' and knew that acting and being involved in the theater was the only career for me.”
Mary is appearing in the Theatre Department’s production of “The Laramie Project,” which opens March 18. She says this play is unlike any other she’s ever done.
“It really is an honor to be in a show like this,” she says. “Actors across the board scramble to be in a show like this because there is so much meaning in it. It brings a new perspective to life and how precious it is and how quickly it can be taken away from you.”
“The Laramie Project” is based on the 1998 murder of 21-year-old Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student. Shepard was severely beaten and left to die, tied to a fence on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyo. His death became a rallying cry for hate-crime legislation across the country.
Five weeks after Shepard died, playwright Moisés Kaufman and fellow members of the Tectonic Theater Project went to Laramie and, over the course of the next year, conducted more than 200 interviews with the townspeople. From those interviews came “The Laramie Project,” a chronicle of the life of the town in the year after the murder.
“The show is told from the town’s perspective, so it’s not all just about Matthew Shepard,” she says. “It’s how the town reacted to it and how it affected the town long after.”
The play’s intensity makes it challenging for the actors.
“It is hard hitting and slaps you in the face because hate crimes affect everybody,” she says. “These characters aren’t just characters. They are real people who had the heartache of having a friend die or having to see a family member go to jail because they committed this horrendous crime.”
And she says there is a strong sense of responsibility to the characters.
“It’s no longer just portraying a character,” she says. “We’re coming at this from a historical perspective, so we try to stay as true to these people as possible because these are their lives.”
Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. March 18-20 and March 25-27. The play contains explicit language and mature subject matter. It is not intended for children.
For reservations, call the box office at (706) 880-8080. In lieu of admission, patrons may make a donation to The Matthew Shepard Foundation.