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Haunting project brought to Newton theater stage

Georgia Perimeter College theater production will present "The Laramie Project," which recalls the events leading up to the death of 21-year-old Matthew Shepard. Pictured, clockwise from left, are Taylor Owenby, a theater and communication major; Laramy Wells, a mathematics and film instructor at Newton High School; and Kimara Herbert, an English major.

Georgia Perimeter College theater production will present "The Laramie Project," which recalls the events leading up to the death of 21-year-old Matthew Shepard. Pictured, clockwise from left, are Taylor Owenby, a theater and communication major; Laramy Wells, a mathematics and film instructor at Newton High School; and Kimara Herbert, an English major.

COVINGTON-- What is the price of hate and intolerance? For Matthew Shepard, it was death.

This week, Georgia Perimeter College Newton Campus' Department of Humanities, Fine Arts and Foreign Language will present "The Laramie Project," a docudrama of the events surrounding the brutal beating and murder of Shepard, a 21-year-old gay University of Wyoming student.

Playwright Moises Kaufman and members of Tectonic Theater Project created the docudrama by interviewing more than 200 townspeople in the town of Laramie, after Shepard's death in 1998. The play is based on those interviews.

"The play is masterful in teaching civility," said play director Janet Hollier, GPC associate professor of communication and theater. "The crime committed against Matthew Shepard was one of hate and intolerance; the probing interview methods used by members of Tectonic Theatre Project help us to understand how easily and quickly attitudes of intolerance can mushroom into hate crimes."

GPC Newton student Joey Kellogg is among 10 cast members who portray more than 60 different characters during the performance. Kellogg saw a segment of the play eight years ago while attending a Georgia theater conference as a high school student. He is excited to be involved in the Newton production.

"I was immediately moved the first time I saw it, so when Ms. Hollier told me that she wanted to do the show, I was eager to be a part of it," said Kellogg, who portrays eight different town characters. "The play is the most challenging show I have ever had to do. It's very demanding, both as being a member of a large acting team, and from an actor's perspective to be able to distinguish what makes each character tick and convey that contrast on stage by posture and delivery, since there are few real costume changes."

Kellogg adds that portraying characters who display anger, hatred and bigotry is particularly difficult.

"I am gay myself, and I've experienced these things, and I'm playing a villain who is an actual person who is going out and preaching such hate to the world," he said.

"The Laramie Project" will be presented 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. It features mature language and situations, so this production is not recommended for children 10 years and younger; neither infants nor toddlers will be admitted.

Tickets are $5 to $10; one free ticket is given to GPC students, faculty and staff with a GPC ID.

For reservations, call 770-278-1435 or email newahac@gpc.edu. Seating is limited, and theatergoers are encouraged to make reservations ahead of time and arrive at least 30 minutes prior to curtain time. Reserved tickets that have not been picked up at least 10 minutes before curtain may be sold.

GPC's Newton Campus Department of Humanities, Fine Arts and Foreign Language will host a panel discussion on "Hate Crimes and Intolerance: Yesterday and Today," at 1 p.m. Thursday, March 31, in Building 2, Room 1200. Bill Nigut, Southeast regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, will be one of the panelists.