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Aerie: Tackling a tough reality

The actors of Red Wing High School dig deep as they develop multiple characters in "The Laramie Project" for their winter play. With a cast of only 17 students, they each tackle the task of portraying three or more characters.

Students will stay the show 7 p.m. Jan. 25-26, as well as 2 and 7 p.m. Jan. 27 in the Little Theater.

The story of young Matthew Shepard's murder and the aftermath of his death is described through interviews. The Tectonic Theater Project traveled to Laramie, Wyo., in 1998 to learn as much as they could about the incident. They conducted interviews and found sources to create a play that truthfully brought light to this horrific event. By showcasing Shepard's father, his best friends and the men who beat him to death, the play is designed to bring the audience into a troubling time for the citizens of Laramie.

RWHS's Graham Wheeler-Nelson moves from apologizing to the Shepard family for his brutal acts as Aaron James McKinney (one of the two murderers) to granting Russell Henderson life in prison as Mr. Shepard. Wheeler-Nelson also puts forth a moving scene as Fred Phelps, a Baptist minister who protested outside of Shepard's funeral.

In one of the most emotional scenes of the play, Mathias Grove sends chills down your spine as he reads a press release written by the Shepards. With his smooth transitions between characters, the depth of "The Laramie Project" grows.

With brilliant direction from Michelle Meyer and Julie Martin, the students participating in this show have learned new aspects to character development and strengthened their roles in the play.

The audience will hear from the passionate souls, the upset townspeople, the angry followers, and the mourning family throughout the play. There is no doubt the audience will feel moved by this powerful story, told through the eyes of those who lived it and portrayed by the actors of Red Wing High School.

Tickets are $5 for adults; students enter free.