Article Title:Bringing Laramie to Gisborne
Author or Credit:Jacqui Stanford
Published on:8th June 2012 - 12:44 pm
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Story ID:11855
Text:A new theatre company in Gisborne is currently staging the challenging tale of the hate killing of Matthew Shepard, The Laramie Project. Shauna Ratapu from Unhinged Productions tells us about bringing such a confronting show to Gisborne. Ratapu, the company founder and the show’s director and producer, says she has wanted to do The Laramie Project for about ten years. She was part of a theatre group in Seattle that was just about to do the show in 2002, when her family moved to New Zealand. “I kept in touch and they said it was amazing; the response they got and the minds that it changed were really huge. So I’ve always wanted to do it.” The Laramie Project literally is more a project that a traditional play, and is based on the murder of the 1998 highly-publicised hate murder of University of Wyoming gay student Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming. Drawing on hundreds of interviews conducted by the Tectonic Theatre Project, with inhabitants of Laramie, company members' own journal entries, and published news reports; it has a number of actors portraying more than sixty characters in a series of short scenes. Ratapu has previously brought The Vagina Monologues to Gisborne, then set up her theatre company and set about preparing for The Laramie Project. Her version has nine actors, none who are professional, but who are all “really passionate people,” she says, adding that she was overwhelmed by the response when she put the word out that auditions were open. “Mostly by women,” she laughs. “I had no men come to the auditions. That was cool, but I needed to have some men so I put a call out and I was able to cast six women and three men.” While the roles are challenging, Ratapu says she handled the audition process by seeking people who were passionate about the issues of homophobia and tolerance the play raises. “I gave them an overview of how many different characters they would be playing and how challenging that was, and it didn’t deter anybody. When we interviewed people it wasn’t mainly about the acting skills, it was mainly about ‘why would you be interested in doing The Laramie Project?’ So that’s how I ended up choosing the cast – the people who just had the most passionate answers and felt really strong about the message were the ones that I cast.” Ratapu compares the piece to watching a live documentary and says it may be challenging to some audience members who haven’t been exposed to that type of theatre. “Hopefully people will come with an open mind and not have any big expectations. But then again I do know it’s not for everybody, this type of theatre. Or even the subject matter, so we’re just going to see what we get,” Gisborne has some community theatre, which is generally made up of lots of musicals and English comedies, with Blackadder the next production to hit the stage. “No one since I’ve been here, and I’ve been here for ten years, has taken on social or political theatre, except when I did The Vagina Monologues in 2006 and 2008. Other than that there are big companies that come through, we’ve got a couple of women who pull in big theatre from all over New Zealand and internationally. So we do get some professionals here sometimes, which is nice. But we’re not that, we’re not professionals. We’re just fringy, and I don’t think Gisborne has had a fringe theatre company, a community one, for a long time. At least not since I’ve been here.” Ratapu says the team has tried its best to get the word out and it sounds like tickets have been snapped up like hot cakes, and the two remaining shows are sold out. But if you have missed out, it sounds like there will be plenty more to come from Unhinged Productions. Jacqui Stanford - 8th June 2012    
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