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Laramie Project Premieres at NDC

He just felt like taking a ride. So he took off on his bike from his dorm to the mountaintop trails on a warm, brisk October evening with no particular place in mind. Maybe it was the cool sweet breeze of the mountain air, or the sight of the town touching the sky, but something led him down that particular path that would alter the lives of so many.

“That’s the biggest part for me is seeing that picture in my head. And it’s kind of unbelievable to me, you know, that I happened to be the person who found him because the big question to me, like with my religion, is like why did God want me to find him.”

These are the words of Aaron Kreifels the 19-year-old university student from Laramie, Wyo., who on that bike ride in 1998 found the body of Matthew Shepard, a homosexual student beaten to death. Aaron’s discovery was only the beginning to the countless interviews and swarms of media who wanted to know the Matthew Shepard story.

Moises Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theatre Project captivated this raw and emotional story in “The Laramie Project.” The play, which consists of over 200 interviews and direct testimonials from the citizens of Laramie, is premiering at Notre Dame College this weekend.

“This has become more than just a role for me…I’ve seen a dead body before, well I’ve seen someone die,” said Andrew Board, the NDC student who plays Aaron Kreifels. “Outside my house, right outside my home, a 14-year-old boy was shot and killed instantly. I guess as much I don’t like to recall, it helps to identify what [Aaron] was feeling when he found Matthew’s body.”

“The Laramie Project” is the second production of Notre Dame’s reformed theatre department under the direction of an accomplished veteran in the performing arts industry, Jacqi Loewy. The performance will conclude Loewy’s first year as the new assistant professor of communication and theatre at NDC. 

“I love it here. The students I’ve encountered challenge and inspire me every day. I wanted to do ‘Laramie’ because live theatre is a vibrant way to open eyes and hearts,” Loewy said. “Compassion is one of today’s most important issues. ‘The Laramie Project’ is a required reading at a majority of colleges and universities and has become one of the nation’s most produced plays.”

The play premieres in NDC’s Performing Arts Center on Thursday, March 25 at 7 p.m. with other performances scheduled for March 26 and 27 at 7 p.m. and March 28 at 3 p.m. “The Laramie Project” is cast with professional and amateur talent featuring nearly 40 individuals including NDC student Ashley Tyler, who performed in Loewy’s fall production of “Proof.” “Proof” received outstanding reviews within the campus community and has helped establish enthusiasm for the upcoming performance.

“I have a lot of confidence for the play,” Tyler said. “I think Jacqi is a great director with great vision. It was nice to work with a small group of people in ‘Proof,’ but I think the large cast used for ‘The Laramie Project’ will be really beneficial. The more people there are, the more talent is brought to the table.”

“The NDC production of ‘The Laramie Project’ will be successful if we can get students excited and engaged in both subject matter and the idea of participating in live theatre,” Loewy said. “We are already off to a good start in rehearsals and in CA313.”

Those involved are not only acting but participating in every aspect of the work that’s required for a live theatre production. Posters, fliers and t-shirts have been created to invite the community to come and witness this historical and controversial production. All four performances are open to the public. The cash only admission is $5 for NDC employees and students and $10 for general public adults.

“My overall vision is to fill the room with the many sides and human aspects of the response to Matthew’s murder,” Loewy said. “I hope to do this with a bare stage, minimal props and costumes, but with a compassionate ensemble energy that will ripple out through the audience and across the campus.”

By Chardonnay Graham, junior communication major at Notre Dame College.