During International Thespian Festival, I was able to catch up with troupe members from Robbinsville High School Troupe 7161, fellow New Jerseyans. Robbinsville’s Theatre II and III Classes participated in the LPP, and they were one of the first to sign on to our initiative back before the new year. I hadn’t been able to catch up with the students or their troupe director and teacher, Miss Sussman, until ITF, so I pulled a Tectonic Move and opened up the recording app and conducted a small interview. I learned about their classroom LPP events in honor of Juan Chavez-Martinez.
The students read the play as a class before they embarked on monologue study. I asked them all what their first thoughts on the play were. Student Sarah initially found it very sad, but grew to appreciate the Tectonic Theatre Company Member’s care to include all different kinds of opinions in the text. (That’s one of the characteristics I personally believes makes this play superior. The good, the bad, and the ugly are showcased, which is the most true representation of any American town.) At first, Student Mark was “frustrated and angry” with the intolerance certain characters showed, but then appreciated the challenge of seeing both sides of the spectrum.This is what truly makes the play about acceptance and understanding.
Another student (I failed to grab their name, and will edit in their name once I hear from the troupe who remembers saying this) remarked, referring to the hate crime that took Matthew’s life, “It’s just hard to believe that stuff like this actually happens.” This is a comment I hear when talking to almost everyone about Laramie–the heartbreaking event still shocks and saddens those who read/hear about it. It’s oftentimes boggling to comprehend the hate that it takes to hurt others for their identity, beliefs, and affiliations.
I also asked the students where they were when they first heard about Pulse. Student Kaeleigh remembered that she was in school, right before the start of summer vacation. Another student heard at home. I told them to story about how I was at the Philly Pride Parade that day, and I had heard in bits and pieces on the train ride over. I brought up how sad it was that safe spaces are in question for the community. Miss Sussman added that “there’s no such thing as 100% anymore for anyone,” with increasing violent incidents all over the world. She said an incredible thing afterwards– “So, we can live our lives in fear, or we can choose to embrace love instead of hate…And teach those messages.”
That’s why our team believes in Laramie so much–it takes one of the most beautiful human creations, theatre, and employs it for the spreading of education and hope.
I positively adore the in-class infusion of the LPP–theatre education is near and dear to my heart, so I’m always happen to sign on schools and students to our cause. Some of the best monologues from the modern play catalogue are from Laramie (I’ve been known to whip out Romaine’s Angle Action monologue as needed.)
Juan Chavez Martinez, as mentioned in an online obituary, was originally from Mexico, only 25 years old when he was murdered in the shooting. Even though he was so young, he was a successful and hard-working boss in a department of a Floridian hotel. He had several brothers and sisters.
The LPP Team wishes with all of our hearts Juan’s family and colleagues could find some comfort in knowing he is loved all the way in New Jersey. We’re so grateful the Thespians of Robbinsville honored his memory in the classroom–employing him and Matthew’s stories in the name of love, education, and acceptance.
Thank you to Robbinsville Thespian Troupe Members for speaking with me, and thanks to Team Member Kelly for transcribing the interview!
LPP TL Alyssa
Goofy thespians of Robbinsville… @ NJ ThesFest17
Juan, may you rest in peace! ❤