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Reality Theater tackles ‘The Laramie Project’

POULSBO — The North Kitsap High School Reality Theater will live up to its name tonight.

Students, most of whom were mere children in 1998 when Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered in Laramie, Wyo., will tackle the ambitious and heart wrenching production that followed.

In cooperation with the Kitsap County Council on Human Rights, the group will present Moisés Kaufman’s “The Laramie Project” at 7:30 p.m. in the North Kitsap Community Auditorium. There is no charge for this performance.

While the play is based on a number of the interviews that followed the hate crime against Shepard, who was homosexual, it is much more than a simple production — for both the audience and the actors.

“Our students are dedicated to stepping into difficult roles which reflect our mission statement of bringing awareness to our community that hate, bullying, and hopelessness are not values we can accept,” said Reality Theater director Randy Powell. “This has nothing to do with sexual orientation. We’re not advocating any kind of a lifestyle a person a chooses. A person’s lifestyle doesn’t matter to us. We feel there’s no room for bullying, hatred and violence aren’t acceptable behaviors in this world.”

Eleven NKHS students will participate in the play. Eight students will play 46 different characters during the performance.

“Our live stage actors will interact in the performance with the video they created for the play as well,” Powell said. “It will give viewers a chance to see a newer version of theater.”

Students began working on this project in January, he said.

“They have put in a lot of their own time. They want to make this production as realistic as possible,” he said. “They have rose to the occasion in their preparations and have done a great job. They realize the importance of the message we’re trying to get across.”

Traditionally, “The Laramie Project” performances have been known to be very graphic in nature, due to the realistic portrayal of the events that took place. As a result, steps were taken by Powell.

“Parents of students participating in this production had to sign off on it before students were allowed to participate. We had to talk with parents about attitudes people may or may not have about a play of this nature in the community,” he said. “We talked with them and they have an understanding of what will be taking place during the play.”

Despite the sensitive nature of the production, it is not the first of its type the Reality Theater has taken on.

In 2006, the group tackled “Bang, Bang, You’re Dead” for the Kitsap County Human Rights Youth Rally. The production was based on the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado.

“That performance was similar to ‘The Laramie Project’ in the fact that it dealt with issues concerning teens and young adults,” Powell said. “Everyone hears about things like Virginia Tech and Columbine and Laramie. It’s something you never want to have happen in your community.”

At the conclusion of the play, there will be a debriefing session where audience members can speak with cast members and amongst each other.

“After the play is over we want people to talk about it,” Powell said. “It’s going to be very emotional after the performance, and if people have questions or want to say something they will be able to voice how they feel.”

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