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Durham HS receives award for The Laramie Project

The cast and director, Doug Graves, after the Saturday’s matinee performance that Kate and I attended (the cast posed for me afterwards).

The Independent Weekly, our local progressive paper here, has given its 2005 Triangle Arts Valor Award to Durham School of the Arts cast, crew and director of Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Project’s The Laramie Project “for demonstrating considerable artistic integrity, and for their courage in facing the advocates of holy hatred.”

The school put on the play back in early May, and faced down the protests of Fred Phelps’s minions of the Westboro Baptist church, who came to Durham and picketed the show each day, spewing hateful nonsense, which I covered on the Blend as well.

Losers. Jonathan Phelps was dressed in a red poncho, shouting “Save The Gerbils!” and “Stop the Sh*t-eating Fags” and other un-Christian-like bile.

They were outnumbered ten-fold by local residents and supporters of the amazingly talented director (and former neighbor of mine) Douglas Graves and the students. (See my post and comments on the staging of the play, Triumphant production of The Laramie Project).

Anni Simpson, Bill Blake, Cristiana Krtalic, Eliza Bagg, Sam Hensen, Elizabeth French, Max Kaufman, Tulani Hauger-Kome, Adrian Boyes, Carmen Ivey, Lucas Campbell, Ryan Deal, John Douglas, Charlotte Valentine, Colin Moore and Ryan Kay. (Photo By Lissa Gotwals)

The Independent mentions the bravery and resolve of the students.

On the last night of the performance, the 10 cast members held hands and walked outside to see the demonstrators before the show–“not as an act of defiance,” freshman Eliza Bagg quickly noted, “but an act of approaching them.”

After a few moments of silence, Carmen Ivey, a junior, recalled that the counter-protesters on the opposite side of the street turned away from the anti-gay demonstrators and cheered the performers. Valentine summed the moment: “There was just so much support, so much love we felt there.

The colleagues we haven’t named yet were with them: juniors Lucas Campbell, Ryan Deal and Tulani Hauger-Kome, founder of DSA’s Gay-Straight Alliance, and seniors John Douglas and Colin Moore. So were Graves and assistant director Elizabeth French, a senior.

The crew waited inside: technical director Daniel Deter, stage manager Sam Hensen, light designer Ryan Kay, prop mistress Adrian Boyes, Chris Austin on the light board with Jasper Pettie assisting, Anni Simpson on the sound board, and projectionist Bill Blake.

As I noted in one of my earlier posts, Kate and I were deeply moved by the depth and range of these young people (ranging from freshmen to seniors). Each and every one did amazing work on stage in what is an emotionally draining piece for all of them, tackling multiple characters, often with diametrically opposing viewpoints.

More info:
* The Matthew Shepard Foundation, founded by Dennis and Judy Shepard
* site on the HBO film version and action items at

Earlier posts on this:
* Triumphant production of The Laramie Project in Durham
* Photos from day two of the Phelps Hate Machine in Durham
* Local media coverage of Phelps clan’s visit to Durham
* First shots from the Westboro Baptist Church protest in Durham, NC
* Daily Kos diary: Westboro Baptist Church protest in Durham, NC

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding