The coronavirus pandemic has significantly impacted the school year for all students, but the students most affected were seniors. In addition to honor society inductions, scholarship night, graduation, and prom all either being canceled or postponed, seniors were also relinquished from the obligation of the Senior Capstone as a graduation requirement; however, many seniors had already completed this project and have gone above and beyond in doing so and deserve recognition for their accomplishments.
Mary Pelkey is one of these seniors.
Pelkey decided to direct and produce The Laramie Project, a tragic story about a young man named Matthew being murdered for his sexuality. Pelkey was able to accomplish this difficult task with help from her family, Woodland’s GSA, and an amazing cast of talented actors.
“At the beginning of our rehearsal process, we met with them[GSA] to discuss the show and the importance and why we are bringing it to Woodland and afterwards we worked very closely,” said Pelkey. “Donations went to the GSA but [they] also helped us build [the set]. We had a fence out front in our lobby where audience members were able to leave messages of love and acceptance for Matthew or for a loved one or for just the point of being loved.”
Pelkey knew that the powerful story could never have been communicated without a strong cast, so she set out to handpick a group of actors she knew could handle the delicate material with the care and passion it required.
“I wanted to personally ask people and find people that were willing and want to be a part of the show; the show is the content is not for the light of heart, and it can be very sensitive for some people,” said Pelkey. “So I wanted to find actors who maybe even if they weren’t the best or have never acted before– which we did have some people who had never acted before– were willing to be a part of it for the message. So it took me a while, but we started rehearsals without a full cast, but we eventually found everybody and the cast just worked so well together.”
GSA was also paramount in helping Pelkey accomplish such an amazing performance.
“We have been working very closely with the GSA and many of us have personal experiences. I know I do. I have family members who have faced such discrimination. And I think the script itself presented such sensitive topics,” said Pelkey.
Under Pelkey’s leadership, the show not only was able to tackle a difficult topic, but also helped everyone experience their feelings in a comfortable setting.
“I think being so close as a cast, we were really able to feel what these people went through and how they were feeling. The night of the show especially just brought it all together. We had actors crying and we had audience members crying and that’s okay–it was okay to cry. We made sure our rehearsals, our show, our cast was a safe space for everybody.”
Photo Credit:: Abby Messina