The Laramie Project: Message over Mess

The original set.

The original set for The Laramie Project.

The stage for The Laramie Project. A script that was and still is extremely topical. The script is written so that a few actors play numerous characters in a variety of different places. The set for The Laramie Project, therefore, must be an extremely open and flexible space.

The play premiered in 2000, just short of two years after the murder of Matthew Shepard. So, the subject matter is still relatively fresh in everyone’s mind, and it was clear from the beginning that the piece was meant to send a message. When working on a piece like that, it becomes very important that everyone involved realize that the show is bigger than them.  Costumes were easy since it was, for all intents and purpose, taking place in the present day. However, Set Designer, Robert Brill, needed to avoid taking artistic liberties and pulling focus in order for the message to be conveyed.

He appears to have taken a minimalist approach. The stage is flat, with what is either an unobtrusive hardwood floor or a very good imitation of one. The mis en scene are simple Mission style wooden chairs such as one would see in a typical dining room set. The back wall is a screen, left blank for the lighting and projection designers to do with as they please. Without being heavy-handed, Betsey Adams and Martha Swetzoff, the Lighting and Video & Slide Designers, used the backdrop to show simple, yet evocative images that set the tone and served the text. They were nominated for a joint Lucille Lortel Award for Lighting Design.

When a play is so much bigger than all involved, all involved have to work carefully to not upstage the entire show. For the premiere of The Laramie Project, they did just that.

Isaac Spooner

Kaufman, Moisés. The Laramie Project. New York: Vintage, 2001. Print.

“Lortel Archives–The Internet Off-Broadway Database.” Lortel Archives–The Internet Off-Broadway Database. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2013.

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