The Stage, Screen, and In-Between

Hello again! Matt Oviatt here, your dramaturg for The Laramie Project. Since its premiere in 2000, The Laramie Project has been performed all over the world, turned into an HBO movie in 2002, and even spawned a sequel The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later. You may have heard of some the actors who have performed in The Laramie Project, including Jenna Ushkowitz, Cyndi Lauper, Darren Criss and Andrew Garfield. UVU’s production will not be featuring any Glee stars, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get up close to some actors from behind the camera.

Lights, Cameras...

            If you remember from the last blog post, The Laramie Project is a sort of documentary play, taking its dialogue from interviews conducted with real residents of Laramie, Wyoming in 1998. The creative team for UVU’s production of The Laramie Project wanted to transport the audience to the town of Laramie, drawing inspiration from the cityscape as well as the natural beauty that surrounds the town. That’s not where they decided to draw the line, however. Director Laurie Harrop-Purser and assistant director Shelby Gist wanted to bring the story to life in an entirely different way. The play feels a lot like a documentary film at times, with narration and quick cuts to different locations and people, so they decided to film sequences to be played during the production.

            “Once we knew we needed to film, we got straight to work,” Gist says. “After months of location scouting, sending in city permits and scheduling with our entire team, we were able to find three amazing locations that were not only beautiful and perfect for what we needed, but they each looked so similarly to locations in Laramie.” Indeed, finding places nearby that could not only seamlessly blend with the physical space of the Bastian Theater but also imitate Laramie, Wyoming was a challenge. A few members of the production took a quick trip to the town of Laramie, exploring and capturing images of the locations featured in the play. This helped the creative team to get a feel for the town and scout suitable locations to shoot.

            Of course, not just anybody can produce quality film. Early in the Fall 2018 semester we enlisted the help of a team of Digital Media students and faculty here at UVU. Each member brought their own specialties to the table, from audio recording, lighting, and editing. The result was a wonderful display of teamwork between the actors, designers, and film artists. “The more I learn about other art mediums, the more I appreciate how hard other artists work to achieve their greatness. Our production would be half of what it could be without our film team,” Gist says. 

 …Action!

            Fusing the two mediums requires careful planning and execution as well. After everything that was done to film the sequences, the actors had to practice their onstage dialogue with the filmed dialogue to create a seamless transition, all the while delivering the authentic performances that UVU is known for (Much Ado About Nothing was just recognized as an Excellent University Production by Utah Theatre Bloggers Association).

Projections designer Emma Belnap worked in close partnership with set designer Janice Chan to coordinate the placing of the filmed sequences on panels all around the performance space, no easy technical feat. This also required the talent and effort from lighting designer Colin Skip Wilson and sound designer Nate Lowry to help create the visceral world for the film and onstage action to coexist.

That’s a Wrap

            In all honesty, words fail to describe the way all of the pieces of this production come together, crossing disciplines, specialties, experiences, locations, and events, all in an effort to better explore who we are. How do we see ourselves? How do we present ourselves? How many ways can one event be seen? UVU’s production of The Laramie Project does just that, ensuring an unforgettable creative experience.

 But Wait, There’s More!

            One moment in the play takes place in a church, which we decided to film with a choir. Shelby Gist selected the traditional hymn “His Eye is On The Sparrow,” which was then arranged for the choir by yours truly. Here is a snippet of the film shoot, taken by makeup designer Alanna Cottam (featuring Dallin Baldwin on the piano, Matthew Herrick as lead vocalist, as Carlee Baldwin as conductor).

https://twitter.com/AlannaCottam/status/1048644781398667264