MC Players Virtually Performs “The Laramie Project” via Zoom

by, Jilleen Barrett, Asst. A&E Editor

In an effort to continue their annual fall play, the Manhattan College Players performed their version of “The Laramie Project,” which is the story of Matthew Shepard, a college student who was beaten to death for identifying as gay. The performances took place Nov. 20 through Nov. 22 on the live streaming service Twitch.

Camryn Kidney is a senior who played six different roles in the production, each ranging in accents, costumes, and personalities. She explained the behind-the-scenes of the virtually performed show.

“There were so many extraneous digital elements we had to consider for this play, and that number was exacerbated by the length of the play and the size of the cast,” Kidney said. “We used Zoom and an app called Snap Camera which allows you to use Snapchat filters on Zoom. We used Snap Camera to create multiple name plates for every character so the audience always knew who we were. Our tech director, Joe Bonaventura, had to create more than 170 Snap filters for this show.”

Ryan Danahy ‘21 playing the role of Doug Laws with a name plate created by Joe Bonaventura, the tech director, on Snap Camera.

Each player was in their own space, whether that was in a dorm on campus or in their homes. Viewers could only see whichever actor was speaking. Like Kidney, many students played more than one role so oftentimes one cast member would be in a different costume the next time they popped up on the screen. A major part of the show was ensuring that each player’s computer would function properly and that the actors would be accommodated with what they would usually have during an in person show.

“On top of that, [Bonaventura] hooked us all up with ethernet cables and dongols to make sure our internet connection was perfect,” Kidney said. “The tech crew also got us all ring lights to make sure our lighting was perfect, too. Overall, the tech crew put in so much work to make our show go over smoothly.”

Freshman Jonathan Abadir feels very strongly that “The Laramie Project” was the best play to perform during a time where the country is divided over issues that the show touches on.

“It’s a tough story that needed to be told,” Abadir said. “One of the characters I play, Father Roger Schmitt, has the penultimate line of the play in which he says, ‘And I will speak with you, I will trust that if you write a play of this, that you say it right. You need to do your best to say it correct.’ I think that really resonated with all of us.”

Jonathan Abadir ‘24 during a scene in which he played Father Roger Schmit. Abadir said Schmit strongly believed in the need for Shepard’s story to be told accurately. JILLEEN BARRETT / THE QUADRANGLE

Given it was Abadir’s first year at the college, he never experienced what it was like to perform in the box on the fifth floor of Thomas Hall, where the plays are typically held.

“It’s different being online and it was nerve-wracking at first, but the cast and crew were so on top of everything that I’ve honestly never felt more at ease in rehearsals,” he said. “I’m just glad I was able to do the thing I love with these beautiful people.”

With about 95 viewers for Friday night’s performance, it seems that the virtual format of the show was successful and shows promise for the future as the pandemic drags on. Sophie Ryan, a sophomore who performed from her basement in Maryland, thought it went well.

“I felt pretty good about the number of viewers we had last night,” Ryan said. “It’s definitely harder to feel connected to an audience when you’re not in the same physical space as them, but I hope that the message of the show was still accessible to our viewers.”

Kidney expressed how grateful she is that they had the ability to perform despite many of there being no possible way to have a show in-person, given the number of students who are learning remotely this semester. 

“I really love that we chose a format that could include all of the members of Players, not just the ones doing in-person learning,” she said. “Doing the show virtually was Players’ way of demonstrating our love and respect for all members of our community.”