Social justice in theater: Reflections & resources

“Theatre brings a community of people together who are all there for a shared purpose,” reflects Ron May of Actors Theatre and Stray Cat Theatre, who directed the October 12, 2009 reading of The Laramie Project: Epilogue mentioned in yesterday’s “The Fine Art of Social Justice” blog.

“Granted, not all theatre is there to encourage reflection or action on social issues,” May adds. “But in the best cases, it has the power to nudge the collective consciousness a bit.”

The Laramie Project addressed the October 1998 murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard. The murder, observes May, made us “look at ourselves as a culture.” There was a national panic, adds May. “And wherever panic is happening, something profound is happening that needs to be listened to.”

“What are we teaching our children about religion, violence, homosexuality…where they feel they have to kill someone else? There certainly aren’t any easy answers to that,” notes May. Yet art “rarely if ever provides the right answers,” he adds. “Hopefully it asks all the right questions.”

If learning a bit about Matthew Shepard and the Laramie Project from yesterday’s blog left you wanting to explore more, here are some resources to get you started…

Books

The Laramie Project by Moises Kaufman and the Members of Tectonic Theater Project (script of the original play)

The Meaning of Matthew: My Son’s Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed by Judy Shepard

Online

www.laramieproject.org. Comprehensive audience guide includes overview, chronology, information on hate crimes legislation, list of resources, description of ‘moment work’ and more

www.matthewshepard.org. Resources and news from the Matthew Shepard Foundation

www.tectonictheaterproject.org. Information on the company, the film version of the project, other company works, Laramie Project online community and more

Video

The Laramie Project. HBO film (2002) directed by Moises Kaufman.

Organization

QSpeak Theatre. Grassroots theatre celebrating its fifth season (recently moved to its new home at Phoenix Theatre). QSpeak presents theatrical productions and trainings/workshops on LGBTQ issues, bullying and harassment (as well as theatre skills). To learn more, contact A. Beck at a.beck@phoenixtheatre.com.

“I have heard and seen firsthand the brutalities our youth are faced with for being who they are,” shares Beck. “I have seen youth right here in Phoenix and Scottsdale and Ahwatukee beat up, hospitalized, terrorized, and tormented at school, at their homes and on the streets.”

Thanks to The Laramie Project and Epilogue, and the countless people who have performed and witnessed the work, our individual and collective reflections and actions can help carry discussions of these issues forward.

As President Obama noted Wednesday as he signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act—“At root, this isn’t just about our laws; this is about who we are as a people. This is about whether we value one another—whether we embrace our differences, rather than allowing them to become a source of animus.”

Coming soon: Audition tips for children and teens

Update: I’m now blogging as “Stage Mom Musings” at www.stagemommusings.com. Please find and follow me there to continue receiving posts about arts and culture in Arizona and beyond. Thanks for your patience as the tech fairies work to move all 1,250+ posts to the new site. For the latest news follow me on Twitter @stagemommusings. 6/13/12

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