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Albany High Theatre Ensemble presents

'The Laramie Project' from Nov. 19-22

ALBANY, N.Y. (November 9, 2009) -- Challenging conventional ideas and tackling controversial topics head-on is nothing new for Albany High School’s award-winning Theatre Ensemble. This fall, teacher/director Ward Dales and his talented students are presenting perhaps their most thought-provoking performance yet.

 

The Theater Ensemble will present “The Laramie Project” from Nov. 19-22, delving deeply into themes of intolerance, hate and violence.

 

The play focuses on the murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shephard. However, it also transcends the persecution of a single minority group and examines the effects prejudice and intolerance have on a community. Visit the WNYT/TV-13 Web site for a story about the production.

 

“It’s certainly an honor to be in this production,” said senior Rosa Collins. “I’ve wanted to do this since I was a freshman. This is really going to change some things, I think. It affects people.”

 

In October 1998, Shephard was kidnapped, beaten and tied to a fence on the outskirts of Laramie. He died in a hospital nearly a week later. Soon after, Moises Kaufman and fellow members of the Tectonic Theater Project went to Laramie to begin the exhaustive research and interviews that became the basis for their play.

 

For the Albany High productions, panel discussions with community leaders and experts will follow each performance, and student panels will be held from 2-4 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday the week of the performance.. Among those scheduled to participate on the panels are New York State Sen. Neil Breslin and Assemblyman Jack McEneny, both of Albany, and WNYT/TV-13 personality Benita Zahn. You can download a complete list of the participating panelists.

 

Though the fall play is a staple in the Theatre Ensemble’s annual schedule, the students in this year’s production feel part of something more powerful.

 

“This is not just a play anymore,” said senior Aaron Moore. “We’re more than actors participating in a performance. We’re symbols of seeing injustice and saying, ‘I’m not going to stand back and take it anymore.’”

 

In the play, a small number of performers portray more than 60 roles.

 

Rosa’s roles include a Catholic priest trying to help the community heal, and one of the University of Wyoming’s first openly gay faculty members.

 

Aaron’s roles include Shephard’s father as well as controversial anti-gay activist Fred Phelps, whose followers demonstrated outside Albany High last school year and sometimes demonstrate at venues where “The Laramie Project” is performed.

 

Although Aaron admits he’s struggled to connect with Phelps’ character in the play, he also notes that “I wouldn’t be doing my role if I didn’t play him in a nasty way.”

 

Casting decisions were made to amplify the play’s powerful message, Mr. Dales said.

 

“Everyone who is doing major roles, I tried to give them one where they were victimized and one where they were the oppressor, so the audience would never get comfortable with an actor,” he said.

 

Performances are at 7 p.m. Nov. 19-21, and at 2 p.m. on Nov. 22. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors.

 

The mission of the City School District of Albany is to educate and nurture all students to be responsible citizens, critical thinkers and lifelong learners to successfully compete in the global community by providing an academically rigorous and safe environment in partnership with parents, students and the community. The district serves approximately 8,400 students in 16 elementary, middle and high schools. In addition to neighborhood schools, the district includes several magnet schools and programs, as well as other innovative academic opportunities for students. 

 

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