Director Jay Adcock talks to About Magazine about his upcoming production of The Laramie Project, set to hit the Brazosport College stage this April.
In 1998, Matthew Shepard (a gay student at the university of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyoming) was beaten and left for dead in Laramie in what would become one of the most well-known LGBTQ hate crimes ever covered by the media. Matthew was taken to a hospital alive, but died six days later due to severe brain injuries given to him by assailants Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. Matthew’s death led to a spark of coverage worldwide, and both the community and the media had varying opinions on what the root cause of it may have been. While it is agreed upon near-universally that Matthew’s sexual orientation was a key factor in his murder, reactions to this tragedy have always been mixed. The Westboro Baptist Church even showed up to protest Shepard’s funeral. Nevertheless, the story also inspired people to take action to stand up against homophobia and crimes of hate.
In February of 2000, Moisés Kaufman and members of the Techtonic Theater Project premiered The Laramie Project, play written by them that took interviews of various members of the community, as well as journal entries and statements, to create this three-act series of scenes that explores the reaction to Shepard’s 1998 murder in Laramie, Wyoming.
Now, in 2018, Lake Jackson performer and director Jay Adcock is stepping up to the plate to bring the show to life at Brazosport College. In this production, Adcock hopes to put a spin on the show that will be uniquely his own, as well as to include the college’s LGBTQ-Straight Alliance in a particular scene. Adcock took the time to chat with About Magazine to discuss how this show came to him, his life in community theatre, and his thoughts on LGBTQIA life in the Trump administration.
Why don’t you tell me how this show fell into your lap?
I do a lot of community theatre. And, you know when the Pulse shooting happened? That affected me a lot more than I realized. It really got to me and I wanted to do something. And I’ve been acting in community theatre here where I live and have been testing the waters of directing. I’ve assistant directed and have directed a couple of one acts. So, I went to the college professor and told him I’d like to direct a show, because they have spots for guest directors each season. And when it was my turn and I was looking at shows to do, like I said, the Pulse shooting had really affected me personally. So, I saw the movie adaptation of this play and bought the script of the play online. So, I decided to do an unofficial survey with all my friends to see if anyone knew who Matthew Shepard was. I’m 47, and I knew who he was, as did my generation of gay friends. But the younger ones at the college and the community theatre did not know who he was. And that really bothered me. So, I thought that, This is a perfect time. Especially with the political climate being what it is now, I thought this would be the perfect show to do at this time. And with it being my first show, it’s a small cast and small set, and I thought that I could do it. And it really means something to me.
When you brought up Pulse, you said that this story is so relevant and that you were very affected by it. What’s your relationship with LGBTQ community?
To be very truthful, this is only my third year of being out. So, when I started living my life truthfully, my whole life changed. I came out in December of 2014, and in June of 2015, we got same-sex marriage legalized nationally. And then right after that, the Pulse shooting happened. So, I was trying to tell my friends who sort of said, “Yeah, this is a horrible thing,” that I live in southern Brazoria County, a very country-ish community; and while the Pulse massacre may have been an extreme case, I live with this fear every day. When I go out to the clubs and I walk to my car dressed to go out and find that someone is walking behind, I have to be aware. I have to wonder whether this is the night I’m going to get beat up. The Pulse massacre brought attention to this, but we have to live with this sort of fear every day. I don’t let it stop me, of course. But hopefully if we learned anything from that tragedy, it’s that this fear is still real and that gay people still live with this every day.
With this administration, and you came out at the tail-end of the Obama administration, has your insecurity increased since Trump took office?
I don’t know if insecurity is the right word. But I do have a heightened sense of awareness. My feeling of rights being taken away is always at the forefront of my mind.
We had 28 trans murders in 2017, and just into 2018, we’ve already seen trans people getting murdered. And with examples like the story behind The Laramie Project and like Pulse, do you think that we’re at a stronger chance for these sort of hate crimes to perpetuate?
Oh, yes. I definitely think so.
To have the opportunity to bring this show to life in community theatre in such a conservative area is great. Have you gotten any negative feedback? Are you afraid of backlash?
No, I haven’t really had any of that yet. I’m sort of hoping that because not many people really know what it is, that they’ll come and see the show and hopefully they’ll take something positive away from it and have a better understanding of this story. I don’t think that we’ll have any backlash or protestors or anything. Everyone has been very supportive so far.
The people that you’re going to get to work with on this project are going to get to carry this memory with them for a long time because The Laramie Project is such a powerful show regardless of where they go with their careers. Does that make you nervous?
It is a powerful show. I’m lucky enough that I’ve not seen any live productions of the show so far. I do love the movie. And it’s not so much that I’m worried about living up to any past productions, I am just so worried about my production, and I just want it to be good. I’m not going to compare it to any other productions. I just want mine to be good. I want it to reach people. I want to touch people. That’s the only thing I’m worried about. I’m not worried about living up to past productions.
Each cast and production brings something new to a show that may have been done a thousand times.
And to take it even further, every night brings something new. I love theatre stories. I have a few of my own that are like, “Omigod!” I was in The Threepenny Opera. And there is a moment where I was supposed to give a toast […] but I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to do. All the actors were like looking at me. And almost telepathically I was telling them, “I know it’s my line! I don’t know what you want me to do! I can’t remember.” So, I kept rearranging every dish and bottle on this banquet table in the scene. And finally one of the other actors looked at me and said, “Well, how about a toast!” And finally I yelled, “Yes! A toast!” and I got right back into the scene. It just felt like twelve hours of me rearranging a table trying to remember a line, even if it was only thirty seconds.
Auditions for The Laramie Project will be held Sunday, February 25th at Brazosport College at 2 PM, as well as on the 26th & 27th at 7 PM in the Seidule Drama Theatre (G-116).
The show runs from April 19th through the 21st, as well as the 25th through the 28th. For reservations, please call: (979) 230-3271