Arlington Children's Theatre
The Laramie Project: Timing is Everything
How do you know if it's the right time for your children's theatre to do a play like The Laramie Project? If you're the Arlington Children's Theatre, the short answer is "now". The long answer—-and the answer that is closer to the truth--is "years".
Unfortunately, performing the show right now could not be more timely, as the bullying, harassment and abuse of gay teens have made national news. But it's not easy for a children's theater to just jump in and perform such an emotionally charged show. Artistic Director Colleen Rua began laying the groundwork for approaching difficult and sensitive material over the last five years. She worked with issues of racism, stereotyping, scapegoating, and cultural sensitivity in shows like Thoroughly Modern Millie (2007), West Side Story (2008), Cabaret (2009), and last summer's Rent, among others. In many ways, these shows prepared both the theatre's audience and its actors for this fall's production of The Laramie Project.
"What we have to our advantage is that we have a strong community of kids and families at ACT," Rua explains. "We treat all of the kids as the intelligent, thoughtful people they are. We don't take the fact that they're 13 or 14 and say that they can't get this or can't talk about serious topics. We treat them respectfully, and as intellectual equals."
The Laramie Project offers teenagers the opportunity to openly discuss difficult themes. Director Matt Lundeen spent the first few rehearsals discussing language and societal issues. "We talked about why something like this would happen," Lundeen described, "not just in Wyoming but anywhere, and about the way people treat one another. We looked at the words we use as a society, like the word "fag", and how it affects not only the people the word is directed towards but everyone in a community."
"This is stuff that kids are dealing with every day now," Rua says. "They're faced with the fact that there is no such a thing as an innocent bystander anymore. We all share responsibility."
The Laramie Project will be performed at the Arlington Center for the Arts at 41 Foster Street in Arlington on Thursday, December 2, and Friday, December 3 at 7:00 PM and on Saturday, December 4 at 2:00 PM. Tickets are $10 and will be available at the door. ACT can provide educational materials for post-show discussion prepared by educators from ACT and a community psychologist from the University of Massachusetts Lowell. ACT will also raise funds during the show for "Safe Schools," a project of the Greater Boston Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. Please note: The show is aimed at mature audiences and is not appropriate for young children.
For more information about this CBACT Member Theater, call (781) 724-0316, visit cbact.org or contact Arlington Children's Theatre