Allen Hall Theatre, University of Otago, Dunedin

12/02/2015 - 20/02/2015

Production Details

The Laramie Project to be performed at Otago. 

On October 7, 1998, Matthew Shepard, a young gay man, was discovered bound to a fence outside Laramie, Wyoming, USA, savagely beaten and left to die in an act of brutality and hate that shocked a nation and sparked an international dialogue. Matthew Shepard’s death became a symbol of intolerance, but for the people of Laramie the event was deeply personal, and it is their voices we hear in this stunningly effective live theatre piece.

Director Moisés Kaufman and members of Tectonic Theatre Project travelled to Laramie, Wyoming, and through a series of interviews documented the reactions of the residents to Matthew Shepard’s death. The Laramie Project is edited from these interviews, in addition to journal entries by members of the company and other found texts. The result is a revealing, honest representation of a town reeling in the wake of a vicious attack.

The Laramie Project waspremièred at the Ricketson Theatre by the Denver Centre Theatre Company in February 2000 and has been produced by colleges and community theatres across the world. Each time it has been performed The Laramie Project has profoundly moved audiences and made an impact upon communities.

The Otago University Theatre Studies programme is proud to present a production of The Laramie Project, which opens on the 12th of February 2015. Staged by Theatre Studies students enrolled in the University of Otago Summer School course THEA 354: Creating Theatre, and directed by Professor Kim Morgan, the production runs until February 20th.

The Laramie Project plays at
Allen Hall Theatre (Corner of Leith St and Union St) 
12th-14th and 17th-20th of February
All performances begin at 7:30pm.
Bookings: email
or text or phone 021 152 3501 

By arrangement with Hal Leonard Australia Pty Ltd, on behalf of Dramatists Play Service, Inc New York.

Luke Agnew
Andrew Brinsley-Pirie
Jordan Dickson
Reuben Hilder
Nina Murnane
Rowan Newton
Christy Nicholls
Alex Ross
Claire Sara
Marama Pipepe
Lisha Scott
David Stock
Megan Wilson

Zoe Armstrong-McCauley – Lighting Operator
Anna Sinton – Sound Operator
Anna van den Bosch – Multimedia Operator


Review by Alison Embleton 15th Feb 2015

For those that have not heard of The Laramie Project before, the play was created by Moisés Kaufman and the Tectonic Theatre Project. The group conducted hundreds of interviews with inhabitants of the town of Laramie, Wyoming about their reaction to the 1998 murder of gay University of Wyoming student, Matthew Shepard. The script was developed using these interviews, newspaper articles and television footage as well as the company members’ personal journal entries of that time.

This particular production is the culmination of the efforts of the University of Otago’s Theatre Studies 300 Level ‘Creating Theatre’ paper. Considering they only had five and a half weeks to produce the entire play (which runs at approximately three hours), this group has done a remarkable job.

The play itself is a very personal one for Artistic Director Lecturer Kim Morgan, and this passion shows through the entire cast. Working with an intensely emotional script, the actors never allow themselves to go overboard with their recreations, or reach a point of hysteria that would undermine their characters. However, as the cast all rely on their scripts throughout the performance (some much more so than others), they do on occasion let themselves down by delivering lines woodenly, direct from the page.

All cast members have dual roles as actors and behind the scenes. The stage design (Nina Murnane and Kim Morgan) of a circle of chairs allows for a rotating focal point, and creates an interesting visual effect for the audience. Simple costumes (David Stock) of t-shirts with the slogan “Hate is not a Dunedin value” create a great unifying effect as well as providing a local nod to the original production.

The lighting is adequate but has some patchy moments: a few missed spots, leaving several actors in shadow at inopportune moments and a particularly harsh light that shines directly in the eyes of quarter of the audience, meaning they can’t properly see the on stage action. (I do appreciate however that this effect would have created a stunning view for the rest of the audience.) The sound, graphic and multimedia design is fantastic (Rowan Newton, Matthew Morgan, Nina Murnane and Claire Sara). Sound bites of original interviews, media footage and images made for an eerie and involving experience: these effects in particular create the scene of the small town tragedy in a very poignant way.

As an ensemble piece, the actors all contribute significantly to this production. And while some have more significant roles, there is no dead weight amongst the cast. Each actor has multiple roles to tackle, which requires a transformation to take place between each character. Not all among the cast are able to make the separation between each of their characters obvious, in some cases the only indication of who they are portraying is thanks to the narrator (Marama Pipepe). However some actors make truly impressive transformations between characters.

David Stock in particular is a standout, his embodiment of a range of characters from the ER doctor to one of the accused murderers is transfixing to watch. Rowena Newton is also a delight, her portrayal of ‘Shadow’ the DJ in particular, and Andrew Brinsley-Pirie also delivers a brilliant speech as a bartender at The Fireside in Laramie.

Overall, this production of The Laramie Project is, without wanting to sound overwrought, quite harrowing. For these actors to produce such a heartfelt performance of a script of a highly emotional and brutal nature is quite an achievement. Their enjoyment of their craft is apparent in their commitment to retaining its integrity, I am certain their grades will reflect this and I definitely recommend purchasing tickets.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council