BY GABRIELLE NELSON, STAFF WRITER
Gangs, political power, the LGBTQ community and a hope for a brighter future—all of these are themes in the Mason Players’ fall season.
**”The Laramie Project”**
After Matthew Shepard, 21, of Laramie, Wyoming, was beaten to death in 1998 because he was gay, the Tectonic Theater Project decided to tell Shepard’s story. After conducting over 200 interviews with people in the town, the theater company put these moments on the stage.
“Just like any show of a highly charged topic, controversy and conflict surround its reception, but the most important part is the dialogue it constantly creates,” Emily Berry, a senior theater major and the production’s dramaturge, said.
Director Heather Hicks, a senior theater major, has spent the last 10 months researching this unique production and the original story on which it is based.
“I was given the script over the summer by a friend, and they just kind of handed it to me and said ‘You need to read this,’” Hicks said. “As soon as I read it, I knew it needed to be done here. It needed to be done now.”
One element that Hicks is maintaining in this production is having actors play multiple roles.
“It’s really interesting because you get to see the world of Laramie from so many points of view and you get to really delve into what Laramie means for each of those people and what the story that we’re sharing means to all those people,” Skye Lindberg, a senior theater major and cast member, said.
Ultimately, this production goes beyond the design and technical elements to delve into the raw emotions of the play.
“Heather is focusing so much on the hope of this show, and I think that is such an amazing, interesting concept taking this incredibly sad story and flipping it to its opposite and not wanting to focus on the sad,” Jared Pugh, a freshman theater major and cast member, said.
In the end, Hicks really wants people to walk away from this show with a renewed sense of hope.
“I think my major goal is an understanding—no matter what side of the spectrum of agree or disagree you come in on—understanding that this did happen and it still happens, but also coming out with some hope in the sense that this isn’t forever,” Hicks said.
_”The Laramie Project” will be running in TheatreSpace Oct. 6 to 8 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 8 to 9 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at the Center for the Arts ticket office. Student tickets are $10 and General Admission is $20._
**”The Threepenny Opera”**
Originally set in London on the eve of the Queen’s coronation, Mason’s production of “The Threepenny Opera” is set in 1926 New York on the eve of the mayoral inauguration of Johnny Walker. Focusing on the issues of World War I veterans, political conflict, and power struggle, “The Threepenny Opera” provides a satirical take on these issues.
“It is sort of this antihero exploration of love and war and ultimately the idea of class,” Ken Elston, director and choreographer of the production, said. “I think it’s timely, it deals with social class and it’s a highly politically-charged piece.”
The show is also filled with dynamic and full characters, like the antihero, Macheath.
“He is the leader of the gang, like the mob, so essentially his nickname is Mac the Knife and he is terrified of blood which is really kind of ironic because he’s a killer,” Dylan Toms, the junior vocal performance major playing Macheath, said.
Macheath’s character contributes to the power play and political maze within this production that Elston is hoping to bring and make relevant to the modern world.
“I hope that people find it theatrically thrilling. I hope that they find it funny. And I hope that in the end they walk away being a little bit thoughtful,” Elston said. “One of the things I think we will achieve in this production that was not in the original production is examining power plays between men and women and empowering women as leaders.”
The political relevance of this piece can even be drawn to the upcoming presidential election.
“I think that’s super important, especially with the election year coming up and all the drama that’s happening in politics, and it’s super important but at the same time it’s a satire. People should have fun watching this,” Keenan Gibson, the junior theater major playing J.J. Peachum, said.
_”The Threepenny Opera” will be running in the Concert Hall in the Center for the Arts Oct. 27 to 29 at 8 p.m., Oct. 29 at 2 p.m. and Oct. 30 at 4 p.m. Tickets are available at the Center for the Arts ticket office. Student tickets are $15 and general admission is $30._