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Local student in cast of "The Laramie Project", a play which addresses issue of hate crimes

Published February 29. 2012 05:01PM

The Misericordia Players student theatrical group will present three performances of "The Laramie Project," a play that addresses issues of hate, intolerance and the human spirit, from March 29-31 in Lemmond Theater in Walsh Hall. All the shows begin at 8 p.m. and tickets are available at the door.

In conjunction with the production, the Misericordia University Diversity Institute - Office of Inclusive Excellence, is offering seminars on workplace bullying and harassment on March 29 in Huntzinger Room 218 of Sandy and Marlene Insalaco Hall. Seminar times are: 9 a.m. to 10:15 a.m.; noon to 1:15 p.m.; and 3 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. Light refreshments will be served. Reservations are required by calling 570-674-1483, or

Written by Moises Kaufman and members of Tectonic Theater Project, "The Laramie Project" offers a deeply moving theatrical experience as it chronicles the apparent hate-crime death of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old University of Wyoming student who in 1998 was kidnapped, severely beaten and left to die near Laramie, Wyo. because of his sexual preference.

The writers made frequent trips to Laramie over the subsequent two years, attending the trial of the two accused in the case and creating a study of the landmark event by conducting more than 200 interviews with area residents and people involved in the case. Their reactions are both varied and fascinating.

The February 2000 debut of the play within a play, that features as many as 70 characters, brought attention to the lack of hate crime laws in various states, including Wyoming. The original production was reviewed in Time magazine as "One of the 10 best plays of the year.''

It was "a pioneering work of theatrical reportage and a powerful stage event,'' according to the national magazine. A television movie based on the play starring Peter Fonda and Laura Linney first aired in 2002.

"I feel this is a really important message that addresses the issues of bullying, hate crimes and abuse that are front and center in the news today," says director Christine E. Rock, who is directing her seventh show on campus. "We need to present this kind of production so that the discussion it brings about leads to change." Misericordia University student Mikayla Gillette of Hawley, Pa., is assisting Rock as stage manager.

Among the cast are Matthew Cebrosky of Lehighton, Jasmine Mae Busi and Melvin Jay Busi of Saylorsburg,

Kaila Augustine of Kulpmont; Courtney Bieber of Reading, Samuel Corey of Uniondale, Jeff Kelly of Dallas, Jackie Paluszek of Selden, N.Y.; Grace Riker of Bridgewater, N.Y.; Mary Scarpa of Tunkhannock, Joy Sy of Bushkill, and Alexandria Smith of Seaford, Del.

Warren Rosengrant, of Kingston, a community theater veteran, will play the role of Dennis Shepard, the victim's father.

The Misericordia Players presents one production each semester from classics to children's theater, a musical, or a world premiere. Students are involved firsthand in all areas of production, including acting, set design and construction, directing, lighting, choreography, publicity and more. The troupe also visits classes to perform scenes from literature and history, and helps with various service organizations on campus by performing skits on timely topics, such as drug abuse.

For more information about cultural events at Misericordia University, please log on to or call the Misericordia Box Office at 570-674-6719. Founded and Sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy in 1924, Misericordia University is Luzerne County's first four-year college and offers 37 degree programs on the graduate and undergraduate levels in full and part-time formats.

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