On the Road With Laramie
BY Advocate Contributors
October 06 2010 7:00 PM ET
Kelli Simpkins plays Aaron Kreifels, the boy who first discovered Matthew at the fence.
We have been in tech almost the entire day when we get to this moment in the play. All the frustration and hilarity and boredom and small-mindedness are in full play, and suddenly there is Kelli doing her work with this amazing speech about finding Matthew.
“Literally, I just thought it was a dummy, like I thought Halloween is coming up and I just thought it was a Halloween gag. Like I even noticed his chest was going up and down, but still I thought it was a dummy. I just thought it was a mechanism or something. But when I got closer to him, I noticed his hair. That was a major key to me knowing it was a human being, was his hair ... So I just ran to the nearest house. I ran as fast as I could and called the police.”
Suddenly the play unlocks itself to each of us again and we all are all suddenly present again in a shared moment of awareness, remembering Matthew and what he went through for 18 hours tied to that fence on that prairie outside Laramie Wyoming.
It also reminds me why the tech rehearsals for The Laramie Project are even crazier than the tech rehearsals for other plays I have done. What happened to Matt is too painful to stay close to it for long periods of time. You have to distance and distract yourself when you are working on this play for an extended time. We do that as a company by goofing off, getting angry, spacing out, being distracted. I suddenly see how natural and normal that is. I am also struck by the irony that this is exactly what I have judged Laramie for in the past — distancing themselves from Matt’s story. If it is too hard for me to face some days, why would it be different for the community where this murder happened? Of course, I think this distancing must be challenged. But it is a relief to suddenly understand, for a moment even, what the citizens of Laramie have to grapple with on a regular basis.