Woodside Priory Performing Arts Director John Sugden has presented several powerful dramatic productions in his 11 years at the Portola Valley school.
His latest effort, “The Laramie Project,” scheduled for a run of four days beginning Thursday, March 7, just may be the most ambitious of his career.
Based on real life events, the Pulitzer Prize winning play explores the aftermath of the tragic murder of a 21-year-old University of Wyoming student, who was targeted, in part, because he was gay.
“This is an extraordinary piece,” Sugden said, “full of tragedy, humor, grace and humanity revealing both the cruelty and staggering compassion that we, as people, are capable of. It has so much resonance because the text comes from the actual words of the townspeople dealing with a terrible crime.”
The script utilizes actual interviews with people from Laramie who responded to the tragedy. It examines a town, and country, as it grapples with who we are, how this could happen and how we can change to prevent such an occurrence from happening again.
“The play deals with universal and timeless messages that are consistent with the ideals set forth by the Benedictine Monks who founded the school,” Priory Board member Lisa Carlos said. “Issues at play include human rights and religious freedom.”
Woodside Priory has a student body of approximately 350 and draws from cities from all over the peninsula. It also includes roughly 50 international boarding students.
The school was founded when a group of Benedictine Monks fled persecution in Communist Hungary and arrived in the San Francisco Bay Area, where land was purchased and a school built. This is Priory’s 55th anniversary.
“It’s a powerful play,” Carlos said. “It’s unusual for a school to do this but John has presented interesting plays for a long time. He’s a serious theater person.”
The play is recommended for ages 11 and up as it contains some rough language and a description of a violent act. Parents are encouraged to accompany students aged 10-13.
The curtain opens at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, March 7-9 and 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 10 at Woodside Priory School, 302 Portola Road Portola Valley, CA 94028. Tickets are $5 for students, $15 for adults and are available at the door or at http://priory.ticketleap.com/
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