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Emmanuel College’s “Laramie Project” to be Honored at American College Theater Festival

Photo Credit: Merrill Shea.

Emmanuel College’s Performing Arts department was recently cited for “excellence in acting by an overall ensemble” as well as “excellence in project design,” for their performance of “Laramie Project” and will be honored at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) from January 31 to February 4.

Scott Gagnon, Chair and Assistant Professor in the Performing Arts department, as well as the director of the production, spoke about the honor he and his cast will be receiving.

Any recognition for our amazing, talented students is of course wonderful. We’re so grateful that the respondents from the Kennedy Center appreciated their work, and we’re also happy if the work draws further attention to the important social issues ‘Laramie’ is all about,” said Gagnon.

During the week of the festival, students will be able to attend classes and workshops taught by professionals working in the Performing Arts industry. They will also hear from this year’s keynote speaker, Mark Stewart, who won a Tony for his composition of the musical “Passing Strange.”

Photo credit: Merrill Shea.

“Laramie Project” sheds light on the 1998 true story of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old University of Wyoming student, who, after being kidnapped, was tied to a fence, beaten, and left alone to die because he was gay. 

The scene the cast will perform at the festival on February 3 is from the end of Act One when Shepard is first discovered tied to the fence. 

“Sad to say, but material like this is more important than ever. Many students today don’t know about the events at Laramie, or consider them to be a distant, abstract historical event. In difficult times, there is often an outpouring of creative art, especially in the theater,” he stated.

Gagnon points out theater’s important function of being the voice of those who need to be heard and a mirror for those who need a better glimpse of what is going on in the world around them.

“We hold up the things we need to think about, the issues that affect us, and we examine them. In its finest form, the theater is an important expression of the human condition. Always has been, always will be. We are often entertained, but more importantly, we are always told a story,” Gagnon stated. “It seems horribly clichéd to say things like, ‘In today’s world,’ but we really do need to use the theater as an opportunity to come together about issues that are important, to hear voices of all kinds talking about those issues, and to be inspired to go out afterwards and take action.”

Photo credit: Merrill Shea.

Brandon Morales ‘20, who played the roles of Russell Henderson, Jedadiah Schultz, Phillip DuBois, and Matt Mickelson, touched upon his appreciation for the department and other groups around campus that recognized the show.

“It is an honor for our department to go to ACTF and to show other schools the message that this show is trying to convey. Although I’m not going, I do have to say that I am extremely proud of our department–and our actors and actresses going to the festival. I am extremely happy that we were able to get a lot of recognition by many people and groups on campus. Outspoken was a very large, supportive group that was very happy that we were showing the struggles that many members of the LGBTQIA+ face,” Morales said.

Janette Birtha ‘20, who performs in the scene being showcased, plans to attend the festival. 

“I was honestly shocked when I first heard the scene I was in was going to be presented at the festival. I knew it was an important scene, but to be honest it was, in my opinion, my worst scene. I never felt like I did it justice–I’m really proud to be apart of this great opportunity, especially as a freshman. One of the other participants in the scene is also a freshman and we’re both overjoyed to get to attend the festival. Stuff like this normally happens for upperclassmen but I’m glad I’m making a mark in the theater department,” Birtha said.

Photo credit: Merrill Shea.

The festival provides a time where those involved can express their gratitude for the work they get to do and the people they do it with.

“Not everyone gets to do what they always have wanted to do for a living. Not everyone gets the opportunity to learn and explore with so many talented and dedicated people. I am blessed every day to have so many such people here with me at Emmanuel, and to be in such a supportive environment where we can work with those people to do great things and communicate important messages,” Gagnon said.

Merisa Boyd ’18 is a Staff Writer for The Hub. She can be contacted at and on Twitter at @merisafaith.

Posted by on January 30, 2017. Filed under Around Campus,Clubs & Organizations. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.