"Say it Right": Two Catholic High Schools in Conversation about The Laramie Project

Over the next few months, LaramieProject.org will host an online forum between two Catholic High Schools as they rehearse and perform productions of The Laramie Project. Participating in the conversation will be St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, CA and Malvern Preparatory School in Malvern, PA.

Each week a new question will be posted so participating students can respond to the prompts and also to their peers' reactions. We hope this forum becomes a platform for a meaningful cross-country dialogue, establishing these schools as allies as they start important dialogues within their school and home communities. Tectonic sends support and love to both schools and looks forward to engaging in a timely and necessary exchange.

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Bosco: The school seemed pretty darn open about the idea of the show. I go to Saint Joseph High school, the sister school of St. John Bosco. Both school principals, at least from my perspective, seemed to back up the show. The parents on the other hand... maybe not as much. Some people prejudged the show when they read what the event was that the show was talking about. One of them being my father, who straight-up originally was like, 'you're not auditioning for that.' 'It's too dark.'. Actually as I show him the paper that our director gave out with a small sample of the story he literally said, "Why the hell are they doing this crap." Oddly enough I had a very similar experience as Jedediah in the way one of my arguments towards my dad was that the prior spring I had been in the Scottish Play. Obviously, my parents relented and let me audition for The Laramie Project, and boy am I thankful for that.
For me though, I thought the show was a great idea. I know how it is to be treated differently because of a personal identity. Not only because of personal events, but I've seen friends go through some tough crud as well. the show is definitely a powerful show. Right from the beginning I wanted to be involved in the show, I'm just glad I've been given that chance.

Hey Natasha!

It really struck when you said your dad said, "It's too dark."


Being in The Laramie Project, I realized that it's not dark, but it's true! Some people actually think this way, or do these kinds of acts towards others. The Laramie Project isn't dark; it's a story focusing on what's truly dark in this world.

It's like when Jedediah says something like "You've seen me play a murderer onstage, but you wouldn't come to see Angels in America". People are perfectly fine seeing a show with murder, sex, violence, etc., because they know that the story's not true. But when a story like Laramie comes along, and it deals with things that are not in one's "comfort zone" because they know this stuff actually happens, it's suddenly "I can't believe your school is doing that show."


Stets

It's a story that in my opinion with a strong background. Where most stories, yeah there probably is a meaning in the story, is just telling the story for the story this one it has more than just a meaning. It has a reason. And I guess it's kind of sad, that like you said, people are immune to murder, sex, etc on tv or movies, or even fictional plays, they for some reason can't handle a real life story with homosexuality and a violent action. People watch documentaries about the wars around the world where there is real life death in it, and even that doesn't phase them. Yet, in an event like this, they can't even handle the thought of it be done. Not the fact of it being done, but the thought of it.

And I agree full-heartedly on the fact of the The Laramie Project not being 'dark' as to say. It's just real, it's like this is what happened, and if you're not okay with what happened, that great, we're not okay that this hate crime happened either. The thing is though, it happened, and that can't be changed. A person died, because of his identity of who he was, and that's not okay. So, yeah there's a darkness to the story, but is it really any darker than what someone watches on tv, or reads in a book? No not really.

Malvern: This play has sparked much dialogue with its origins about a year ago when the play was presented to the administration. I am THRILLED that we have the opportunity to present such an amazing piece of theater. Not only is the administration behind this, but the entire Augustinian community. We received letters of support from another Augustinian school in NJ, St. Augustine Prep, who can't wait to come see the show. Another letter came from the President of Villanova University, as well as the founder of Speak up (a National organization founded to spark conversation between teens and their parents and other adults). 

Looking even further beyond our campus, I received an anonymous email from an alum of our program who wrote:

"Jim (I guess I am an adult now? That feels weird though), I learned about your fall production. Thank you for having the courage in telling such an important story at my alma mater. These past few years, I've tried to distance myself from that Main Line prep school that gave me a scholarship when I was just a 13-year-old kid from Delco. But I'm thankful and relieved to know that someone like you is there to help give voice to folks who otherwise might feel silenced, or worse: that their voices don't matter. I'm grateful that you're giving a voice to such an important story. And I pray the message won't fall upon deaf ears."

When picking a show, I always look for some kind of sign that we "chose wiseley." With this show, i think the above email coupled with the recent events in Philly regarding a gay hate crime committed, I know in my heart that this play is supposed to be happening now.

BOSCO: My name is Kate and I go to Saint Joseph High School, the sister school of Saint John Bosco High School. I will play Romaine Patterson and Jen! :)

When it was first announced that we were doing The Laramie Project, both administrations at my own school and our brother school were on board. As auditions and casting happening, the school community seemed excited that a story of this incredible magnitude was being shared on stage. I haven't really experienced directly anything negative - I think that people are just happy that this story will be heard. It's jarring, it's impactful, and it's going to be on people's minds for a while after they walk out of the theatre.

There are some days at rehearsal when I'm just like, man, I can't even fathom how something like this happened. The first time we blocked the scene with Matt's father's monologue, I flat out bawled on stage. I am continuously amazed at the storyline and I feel honored to have a connection with it. I like to say this show is "a message of peace and love and compassion." Through it, we impart the ideas that everybody should be treated with respect and love, and I think that's a really important message to share. 

Hi Kate,

We are staging the final courtroom scene tomorrow. I am looking forward to seeing it unfold. I am in total agreement with you regarding the power of the fathers message. It is touching, beautiful, and Christ-like.

Dr. Fry

Hi!  My name is Catie Cullen and I attend the Academy of Notre Dame, Malvern Prep's sister school.  Many of my friends and family from my community were a bit shocked and confused when I first told them the storyline of a play, and were even more shocked when they heard it was based on true story.  Personally, I was excited to be taking part of a story that is so much bigger than a high school production, but a bit overwhelmed.  The content matter is very intense, but I also knew that MTS could rise to the challenge.  I can't wait to see how the audience reacts after they see the show, and hopefully it will open some dialogue about acceptance and the other underlying themes in this production.

MALVERN: There was definitely a lot of positive feedback from the administration about the play. The students did not really know what the play was about, but our President, Head of School, and even the President of Villanova University had great things to say about it. I did an article about it for the newspaper, but there was so much more feedback than was put in the article.

For instance: Our Head of School, Christian Talbot, actually got a chance to see an exclusive screening of a production of Laramie when it was first coming out. He said that he was totally on board with it.

In the wake of Malvern's new "Diversity Initiative", this show and the initiative were mentioned a lot by the administration, and I think that even though they are prepared for the production of the story, they will never be prepared for the emotional experience of seeing the actual show.

This is also a late response. Sorry. 

Week #2: Bosco: I didn't know what the show was about when I first heard that we were doing it. I'm sure that I wasn't alone. I was still an infant when the event happened. But with more research, I grew to understand the show. My dad was shocked. He didn't think that a Catholic school in our area would be allowed to do a show like this. He knew that if his high school were to anything like Laramie when he was in high school, it would get shut down immediately. My uncle, who is gay, was overjoyed when he heard that we were doing the show. He lives in another state, so he sadly won't be able to see it. I coincidentally ran into some LGBTQA+ advocates outside of a Whole Foods right after the cast list was posted. They were gathering signatures/donations in support of a now passed law (http://www.advocate.com/crime/2014/09/29/california-becomes-first-s...). When I told them that my school was doing the show, they were surprised but excited, because knowing that a Catholic institution was doing the show showed progress. I've talked to some teachers about the show and asked that they give extra credit to students who attend, hoping that it would inspire some students to go. I think that the show is extremely important and getting these students to the show would mean that conversations would start. And as Rebecca Hilliker said, those conversations are important. 

MALVERN: Hey everyone!! I'm Emma Shackleford I go to villa maria Malvern's sister school. I am playing Rebecca Hilliker and Lucy Thompson. I have heard a lot of different reactions. My piers reactions were really open they think its really great that malvern an all boys catholic is doing this show. They said they thought it was really important that these kinds of issues were addressed and is going to be so different then any other show and they can't wait to come see it! When I've talked to parents and other adults many were like oh... well isn't that risky... thats very controversial, but others thought it was great and they were so proud and really embraced it. Regardless of what others are saying I could not be more thrilled to be part of this show. I think it so great that we have this opportunity to be part of something so much bigger then just Malvern Theatre Society. It is a show I think everyone should see. It is very eye opening and maybe it will help people become more aware and more accepting of others.

Malvern: Hi My name is Kieran Cullen. When I first began telling People what the play was and what it was about They were very surprised we, as a catholic school, would put it on. When they heard about the very mature content that comes up. Some people asked me can they acutely put it on? I myself was not sure at first about putting on a play like this but after reading the script I found out how powerful the script truly is. It is a very important story to tell in todays society, especially because it is a true story.

Video Challenge #1: Students in the Malvern Preparatory School cast were asked to create a promotional video for St. Bosco's production which will open next Friday, October 10th. St. Bosco's cast will respond at the end of the month with a video for Malvern.

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