On the Road With
BY Advocate Contributors
September 14 2010 2:20 PM ET
We actors can be a “fabulous” lot. And it can be ego-deflating to work so hard to make our performances strong only to have that personal effort blended into a collective effort that creates the audience’s much larger emotional journey. But ultimately, with these two plays, the job is collective, and it is a great joy when a whole company is willing to work in this way. There are no star turns in The Laramie Project, and no individual performance can ever be as staggering as the story we serve.
Above is the ensemble in the rehearsal space. At the center in the gray T-shirt is one of our directors, Leigh Fondakowski. She is restaging part 1 based on Moisés Kaufman’s original production 10 years ago, but she is certainly directing the piece in her own right as well. Because she is head writer of The Laramie Project, her understanding of the characters and the narrative is shockingly penetrating. I myself am one of the writers of the play and have lived with the story for over 10 years; still she continually offers me penetrating new insights into my characters and my piece of the story. Even in the McKinney scene in part 2, a scene I wrote, she uncovers more material for me to mine than I knew was there. That’s scary! Most importantly, she never loses sight of the storytelling and the narrative. She guides each of us in raising the level of our individual performances but never allows us to lose sight of the larger story we are telling. In these two plays it is something much greater than individual opinion or artistic achievement that audiences ultimately come to witness and walk away remembering. They remember Matthew’s story. And they remember the complexities and struggles of an ordinary American town in the aftermath of extraordinary suffering.