Written by Sheri ArbitalJacoby Thursday, 19 December 2013 00:00
“Hate is not a Wheatley value.” That was one of the slogans cast members donned on the large pins they wore to school attached to black outfits to signal the premier of their play The Laramie Project, which recently took place at the Wheatley School in Old Westbury.
This was no run-of-the-mill, happy-go-lucky, elaborate musical. Rather, it was an incredibly serious undertaking, especially for high schoolers.
The play tackled the real-life kidnapping, brutal beating and murder of an openly gay University of Wyoming college student, Matthew Shepard. The Laramie Project was created by Moisés Kaufman and fellow members of New York’s Tectonic Theater Company from more than 200 interviews with local residents recounting the event. The drama illuminates how this one horrific act reverberated throughout the world.
“This year marks the 15th anniversary of Matthew’s murder and presents the Wheatley community a unique opportunity to have an important conversation about bullying, tolerance and human rights,” said Colin McKenna, Wheatley English teacher and the show’s director. “In addition to the important social impact of the play, this docudrama also gave our students a chance to interact with living history and well-sourced research.”
Westbury’s Aly Brier, along with Julia Cooper, Amanda Liparoto, Morgan Misk and Neil Shahdadpuri from Old Westbury joined 13 other students on the stage to portray over almost 70 different characters.
“Someone once told me theater is social change and I think that’s really true,” said Misk, a sophomore who played several roles in the play. “I loved getting an inside look at not just telling the story, but telling how it affected so many people and it really touched my heart.”
The theater group performed the drama Nov. 21-23 to transfixed crowds. The school’s Gay Straight Alliance welcomed theatergoers to the performances with rainbow ribbons, had discussions about human rights and also sold T-shirts.
After the opening performance on Thursday, Wheatley sophomore Andrew Schloss, who attended the show with several members of Temple Sinai’s Generation Equality group, said that the performance was “a powerful and moving play about how a small amount of hate by very few can destroy an entire community and change a nation’s opinion on previously sensitive matters. It is a drama that speaks to the heart.”