Student directs controversial play, ‘The Laramine Project’

by Andrea KempCopy Editor

The weekend of Nov. 3-5 saw the controversial production of “The Laramie Project” at Valley West High School in Des Moines. In the weeks leading to the production, groups rallied in support of the production, while those opposed to the play’s dealings with the murder of homosexual student Matthew Shepard showed disagreement with Valley High School’s choice for the production.

Junior Hailey Johnson, who graduated from Valley High School, felt the play dealt more with tolerance than the issue of homosexuality.

“The message in the play was not controversial – it was not ‘we advocate this line of action or not,'” Johnson said. “It was basically just telling the story of all the people in the town and how they reacted and dealt with the tragedy that occurred. It’s unfortunate that people were protesting a play whose central message was tolerance. It was just sad.”

Due to this controversy, members of Simpson’s theatre fraternity, Alpha Psi Omega, chose to write a letter to those at Valley involved with the production.

Part of the reason Alpa Psi Omega chose to write the letter was to show support for Nicole Crawford, an adult student at Simpson student teaching at Valley, who assisted in the play’s production at Valley.

“One of the main workers on the Laramie project is an alumni from Simpson,” Johnson said. “We (still) would’ve sent them a letter regardless of if we had an alum working (with the play).”

Lindsey Johnson also credits the Alpa Psi Omega’s publicist, Laura Lumdberg, with the idea of writing in to support Valley’s decision to present “The Laramie Project.”

“Laura has been very progressive in her publicity, getting support out of other organizations,” Lindsey Johnson said.

Lumdberg, senior majoring in theater arts, delivered the letter personally to Crawford, and notes that the support was appreciated by the student teacher.

“APO, we’re a theatre fraternity,” Lumdberg said. “We want to support theatre, we just want them to know that there are other organizations out there that we are there for them.”

Lindsey Johnson agrees that the letter was a good way to let Valley theater students know that another performing arts group was behind them.

“For a high school to do the Laramie project is a big deal. So we figured they needed both attention and respect. We, as theatre majors, view it as a progressive piece of literature as well as art.”