Freshmen begin new path, seniors’ path coming to a close in production of The Laramie Project

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Freshmen begin new path, seniors’ path coming to a close in production of The Laramie Project

Junior Khol Parker plays the role of Rob Debree, who interviews 
Aaron McKinney, one of Matthew Shepard's murderers.

Junior Khol Parker plays the role of Rob Debree, who interviews Aaron McKinney, one of Matthew Shepard's murderers. "I felt like it was a good time to connect to people who had the same interest as me," Parker explains.

Elijah Bivins

Junior Khol Parker plays the role of Rob Debree, who interviews Aaron McKinney, one of Matthew Shepard's murderers. "I felt like it was a good time to connect to people who had the same interest as me," Parker explains.

Elijah Bivins

Elijah Bivins

Junior Khol Parker plays the role of Rob Debree, who interviews Aaron McKinney, one of Matthew Shepard's murderers. "I felt like it was a good time to connect to people who had the same interest as me," Parker explains.

For many senior theater students at GCAA, The Laramie Project was their last play, and for a few freshman, it was their first real high school production.

“I would say that the freshmen were split between the really hungry and really excited to be a part of something, and have an opportunity to showcase their skill and why they even came to this school, and then the not quite understanding the bigness of what it takes to do a show, and maybe even a bit overwhelmed,” said Brandon Riley, theatre teacher and cast member of The Laramie Project.

Being able to work alongside theater students during the Laramie Project gave freshman Eva Miller a chance to hone her acting skills. She said that it’s different to be taught how to do something and to see someone do it, because that is what they’re best at. 

Amirah Bauder, another freshman, also used the opportunity to learn from the upperclassmen. Watching the other students helped her figure out what decisions she had to make and things she wanted to try and do.

“I got to see what kind of acting choices they were making and the kind of styles and choices that they were doing and figuring out, like seeing them do what their choices for acting really influenced what I wanted to try and do,” she said.

With the different classes and age separation, the play gave the upperclassmen, like junior Kohl Parker, a chance to connect to the younger students.

“I really like being involved with the underclassmen, and the whole high school… I felt like it was a good time to connect to people who had the same interest as me. Because next year, as a senior, it’s going to be harder to connect with the underclassmen, so it’s good to have those connections now,” said Parker.

For Parker, whose friends are mainly seniors, this was even more complex. He had to deal with the fact that this was the last time he’d be with that group of people, and said that it was intense during the last show.

For Marnice Davis, junior, the age difference didn’t matter. She didn’t see a big difference between herself, her fellow juniors, and the freshman. For her, it was a really good experience, because the younger students had the same sort of maturity that juniors would have. She said that is was really nice working with them.

The connections gave seniors like Sariah Henning a chance to reflect on their time in the theater department.

“I’m feeling very nostalgic, of like this is all that I’ve known and it’s weird that it’s ending,” she said.

“Our shows are always, by the end of it, you always feel like a family, with the cast and crew, our theater department in general, it’s always been just a very close-knit group, especially during a show, so I’ll definitely miss that.”

From a teacher perspective, Riley could see the effects that the play had on the seniors.

“I would say for some of the seniors it was a good reminder of why we perform, not just for entertainment, not just because we love to be on stage, but that we can use our art to speak to something, to speak for something, not simply just entertainment but it can be also useful for many different reasons and I think the seniors being in this show with sophomores, freshman, and teachers and all those things, for some of them I think it reminded them like, oh yeah I need to be working because there’s so many other people out here that are talented too, I can’t just get by on being the big fish in the little pond,” he said.

As the cast neared the end of the production, that bittersweet realization kicked in, as it did for senior Kynedra Murray.

“I was sad, I was excited, I was relieved because I did it, I didn’t think I was going to be able to make it this far, but I made it,” Murray said, “I was sad because I was going to miss everybody, it’s like I got my underclassmen that I’m not going to see as much anymore, and I got my graduating class who, they’re going to go into their separate lives, and I’m not going to see them everyday like I’m used to. And I was excited because I’m opening up a new chapter in my life, and I’m going to be able to be more independent and go after what I really love and what I really want to do.”

Senecy Jackson, senior, said that she’d miss a lot of things when she graduated, mostly the people, but also the show. After having been putting on a show for so long and learning all the lines, it’s easy to get attached, and that she would miss being in various productions.

Jaylen Orange, senior, looks forward to coming back and seeing the growth of all of the younger students. She said she hopes for great things for the freshman, sophomores and juniors. Orange wants to come back and see how people have changed from struggling with one thing, to being confident to do it.

When the seniors gave goodbye speeches before the show, some of the younger students, like Averey Campbell, sophomore, were touched by what they said. Campbell teared up during the speeches, especially when Orange said that she would come back and see her.

Teachers could also feel the effect of the seniors leaving, but from a different perspective than the students.

“It was hard, if I’m being honest, especially some of the seniors that I’m really close with, just knowing how fleeting time is, because this class in particular, I’ve been here since they were freshman so I’ve literally seen them grow into the young adults they are,” Riley said. “So that last show night, thinking about like alright, this is, I’m going to go from seeing these people every day to maybe once a year, twice a year, something like that, and some of them, we’ve grown really close. So, on one hand you’re ultra-proud to see people that barely would speak go to performers, the way they’re transforming on stage, and on the other hand, selfishly, I wish I could keep some of them with me for forever.”

“I know that’s not the reality, but it’s bittersweet, it’s always bittersweet, the last night of a show in general for me, this one was, it even hit even a little more just knowing that some of these folks aren’t going to be around much longer…they’ll be off doing adult things in adult land”.

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