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
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.
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
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,”
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
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.