Producing Director Jerry Rapier on Plan-B’s LGBTQ Work

Jerry Rapier has been Plan-B’s Producing Director since 2000.  He shares his thoughts on Plan-B’s LGBTQ work as part of Give OUT Day. I stumbled onto a copy of Harvey Fierstein’s TORCH SONG TRILOGY the summer I turned 16 in the Duncan, Arizona (population 700) town library.  I’m positive my aunt, who ran the library, didn’t know what it was. I had never read a play before.  I had never seen many of the words in that play before.  And I had never quite understood who I was. It opened up the world for me. Fast forward to the fall of 2000 and I suddenly found myself in a position to make artistic decisions for Plan-B Theatre Company.  I got my hands on the unpublished manuscript of THE LARAMIE PROJECT, the original production of which was still touring the country.  I called Dramatists Play Service daily for 6 months and finally had to get Salt Lake Acting Company and Pioneer Theatre Company to confirm with Dramatists that they were not interested in the title so Plan-B could produce it. That production – the first independent, regional production worldwide – was the mother of all mile markers for Plan-B. It made it possible for us to segue from a community theatre to a community-based professional theatre. With it, we launched our Benefit Performances Program; realized the value of creating true community awareness around each play; committed to producing at least one play per season focused on LGBTQ issues; and began focusing more tightly on socially conscious theatre. Plan-B had produced LGBTQ-inclusive work prior to THE LARAMIE PROJECT.  But now our body...

Designer Randy Rasmussen on creating LGBTQ work with Plan-B

Randy Rasmussen has designed nearly every Plan-B set since 1991.  He shares his thoughts on Plan-B’s LGBTQ work as part of Give OUT Day. I grew up on 90th South in a orange brick four-bedroom. I knew I was different and I knew to keep my mouth shut about it. I remember looking up a few words in the big dictionary one day at Mt. Jordan Jr. High School. Homo was the first word I looked up. I then found homo sapien and homosexual. I then had to look up perversion and sexual deviation. Opening THE LARAMIE PROJECT in 2001 was a very special time for me at Plan-B. It was the first time we had really waved a rainbow flag around town and people took notice. We had done so many shows in the 90’s under the worst possible conditions. It was not like we had been doing guerilla theatre – it felt more like D-Day theatre sometimes. Gay theatre really seemed marginalized, the kind of thing you saw in the back of bars and really no nicer than anything we probably were doing at the time. We had training and standards and experience – despite the fact that you might be parked on a scary street or sitting on a folding chair listening to the sound of Shakespeare with a hum of portable air conditioners – we knew you could tell the difference. We were terribly serious about all of it and, despite that, the whole thing looked it could fall apart any minute.  In my very narrow view, gay theatre was really not something professionals did...

Kirt Bateman's most memorable Plan-B role

Kirt Bateman has appeared in Plan-B’s Script-In-Hand Series (including DEAR GEORGE: LETTERS TO THE PRESIDENT, THE NORMAL HEART and THE LARAMIE PROJECT: TEN YEARS LATER), A PERFECT GANESH, THE LARAMIE PROJECT, THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, ANIMAL FARM, AMERIKA (also Toronto’s Fringe Festival), EXPOSED, GUTENBERG! THE MUSICAL! (twice), DI ESPERIENZA, AMERIGO and BORDERLANDS; directed TRAGEDY: A TRAGEDY and participated in several BANNEDs and every SLAM. I’ve been putting off writing this blog entry for weeks, actually months. Not because I haven’t wanted to write it, but because I’ve had the hardest time deciding which of my Plan-B Theatre roles has meant the most to me. For the last decade, Plan-B has been home. Every experience has become an important thread in the oddly-shaped, color-incomplete, frayed fabric that is my life (I love a good fabric analogy, don’t you?). But the one that has meant the most to me personally was one of the very first, THE LARAMIE PROJECT. It’s hard to describe why it was so meaningful. Do I think it was my BEST acting work? No. Was it the most FUN? Not compared to, say, GUTENBERG! THE MUSCAL! Was it the most challenging role I’ve had? No, that would be ANIMAL FARM. Was it the hottest…literally? Yes! Did I sweat the most in that one? Mmmm…probably not (again, that goes to GUTENBERG). Let me ‘splain. Even just a decade ago, life for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens of this country was a lot different (I speak in general terms and really from my experience and point-of-view). LARAMIE ran in July/August of 2001, right before 9/11,...

Stan Penfold (2001+)

I can still remember the day I heard about Matthew Shepard on the news. I was sitting in my office, and like the rest of the country, I was stunned. I remember crying at my desk. My relationship with Plan-B Theatre Company began in 2001 with their production of THE LARAMIE PROJECT. Jerry Rapier approached the Utah AIDS Foundation, where I am the Executive Director, and asked if we would be interested in a partnership on the production. I was not familiar with the play at the time, however, I did know the story of Matthew. Of course we would partner with Plan-B. We had to. The story was too important. That was a powerful production. I found myself sitting in the audience and crying all over again. As part of a panel discussion after one performance, I was moved by the audience reaction to the play. I have always believed in the power of art to stimulate dialog and create social change. At Plan-B you can see that power in action. Plan-B has always understood the role of theater as a catalyst for change. I will always remember that day in my office when I heard about Matthew, and I will always remember the emotion and power of THE LARAMIE PROJECT. Over the years the Utah AIDS Foundation has continued our Plan-B partnership on productions of HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH, PATIENT A, FACING EAST, THE TRICKY PART and now the reading of THE NORMAL HEART to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Plan-B and the 25th anniversary of UAF. I am honored to partner with Plan-B, changing the...

Jedadiah Schultz (2000+)

Almost ten years ago my relationship with Plan-B Theatre Company began – with an interesting proposition. Jerry Rapier, the producing director of Plan-B and the director of THE LARAMIE PROJECT (Tectonic Theater Company’s seminal play about the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard), wanted to know if I would audition for his 2001 production, which was to be the first regional production anywhere in the world. At that time, I was a student at the University of Wyoming, and Jerry was offering me an opportunity to perform in my first professional show. But there was a catch: I would be playing, among other roles, myself. THE LARAMIE PROJECT is comprised entirely of interviews Tectonic conducted with the people of Laramie, Wyoming. It investigates their reaction to Matthew’s murder and the surrounding attention it brought to Laramie. As a result of those interviews, I became a character in the play. I found the proposition, to play myself, very enticing, because not only was Jerry offering me a job, he was also offering me a unique meta-theatrical moment. During Tectonic’s production I sat in the dark of the theater and watched the original company portray myself and the other characters of Laramie. Now Jerry was offering me an opportunity be an active participant via my chosen profession. So I accepted the challenge and set to work with Jerry and the other actors. Over the next eight weeks we created a production that would help define Plan-B’s mission. The strength of the show started with the script, but it was enhanced by the incredible talents of the company. Once the show was up...

REFLECTIONS FROM THE CAST OF THE LARAMIE PROJECT and THE LARAMIE PROJECT: TEN YEARS LATER

In October 2008, Q Salt Lake published a cover story commemorating the 10th anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death. Members of the cast of Plan-B Theatre’s 2001 production of THE LARAMIE PROJECT reflected on their experience as part of that story. We also shared those comments on this blog. As we prepare to present THE LARAMIE PROJECT: TEN YEARS LATER (A Kingsbury Hall presentation this Friday, October 9 at 7:30pm), which examines the impact of Matthew Shepard’s death on Laramie, Wyoming a decade later, we thought we’d share these with you again, as 6 of the 8 actors from our 2001 production return for the EPILOGUE. JERRY RAPIER, DIRECTOR In the fall of 1998, I was a graduate student in the theatre department at Utah State University in Logan. On the night of October 7, 1998 – the night Matthew Shepard was discovered, badly beaten, hanging on a fence on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming – an impromptu meeting of the USU Pride Alliance was organized. I’d been to other meetings where only a handful of people showed up. But this was different. Dozens of us were there, each in shock, in need of somewhere to be – somewhere where others understood what we lacked the words to express. A writer for the campus paper showed up with a photographer. People were openly expressing their feelings to the writer. But the relief of being in a safe place immediately shifted to tension – fear – when the writer began asking for the names of those photographed. I think it crossed everyone’s mind: ‘It could have been me.’ Over the next...

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