The Lowdown – The Nose Creek Players & The Laramie Project
Since I began writing The Lowdown here in the Echo I’ve done everything I can to tell the best story possible about each person or persons who are featured here weekly. This week will be no different as I have the honor of telling you a two-part story; one is about my interview with Mandi Fusaro-Smith of the Nose Creek Players and her outstanding theatre group. The other is about their latest work, The Laramie Project, which is a documentary style theatre play encompassing the life and death of Matthew Shepard.
“The Laramie Project presents a deeply complex portrait of a community’s response to the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man living in Laramie, Wyoming. In a series of poignant reflections, the residents of Laramie react to the hate crime and surrounding media storm with anger, bewilderment and sorrow. The play portrays the seismic and deeply personal impact Matthew’s death had on this small town while also demonstrating the power of the human spirit to triumph over bigotry and violence.” – nosecreekplayers.com
It’s been some long days of late and while I waited for Mandi to arrive I began my usual routine of reviewing my notes on whatever efforts I’d put in before reaching out with an interview request. Generally, I try to do some background on whomever I am writing about and what they might be up to. The Laramie Project caught my eye a few weeks ago when I saw one of the Nose Creek Players Facebook updates and it made an impact on me. I remember this story and have read about it in the past and today I am finding this column very difficult to write as imagine the scene from the young mans prospective himself, to his family and what all of this must have done to them. It’s actually quite interesting how we see our world and how that may or may not change as our cognitive growth develops and we learn and grow with it.
I am thinking about my life in 1998 when Matthew Shepard was murdered. I had just moved to Vancouver and took up residency in the West End of the city with a girlfriend at the time. If you don’t know, the West End is where Pride lives openly and people are just that, people. As a young man from Winnipeg, this was one of the best things I ever did for my growth. To this day I hold many of my friendships from Vancouver very close to my heart. I learned from this experience and was accepted by my neighbors for whom I wasn’t to them. Today, as a parent myself of a young boy heading for his teen years I found myself imagining what Matthew Shepard’s parents, Denis and Judy have lived with through all of this. I can’t for one moment begin to understand their pain and this is in large part why I felt so compelled to reach out to Mandi and the Nose Creek Players for this interview. This is a very important story that is being told.
When I finally caught up with Mandi I was impressed to learn that she is the Vice President of the group, a theatre group right here in Airdrie that is run by their own Board and is essentially made up of volunteers who love arts, theatre and mostly telling great stories. It all started rather innocently for Mandi and the Players when she auditioned for a part a few years back and was cast in “When We All Come Together”. From there she’s held various roles with the group and her life as a professional event planner has clearly helped her shape the current state of the theatre group.
The Laramie Project is more than just a play. It is a very important story for the Nose creek Players to tell, theatre tells a story and they want this to provoke conversation and education. They’ve teamed with Airdrie Pride immediately to insure this story was told appropriately. This is a powerful theatre production and something that is culturally poignant where family, community and human growth and empathy is concerned. Directed by Mandi and Tara Rennebohm the play itself is comprised of ten actors who play the roles of sixty parts! The Actors are: Keigan Hassett, Yvonne Friedrich, Shylo Cliffe, Karalee Braun, Anne Mulders, Dragos Paunescu, Gary Parker, Emily Marston, Haley Day and Robin McKittrick. The stage will be run by Taylor Burton. I am amazed daily at the talent we have here in our city and this play has taken that to new levels with eight of the ten being Airdrie based while the other two join us from Calgary. Tickets are $22.50 and $11 for students and will run November 15th to 17th. The 15th and 16th start at 7PM sharp and will run until 10PM with two intermissions. The November 17th performance will feature a 1PM panel discussion with Airdrie Pride with the performance beginning at 3PM. All performances take place at our very own Bert Church Theatre. Tickets can be bought online through nosecreekplayers.com
Thank you again for reading the Lowdown. Follow me @timlowing on Instagram and @lowingmedia on Facebook and of course this and archived columns can be found at lowingmedia.com. T