By Michelle Poirier

The Queensville Players, Georgina’s community theatre group, will perform The Laramie Project as their first production of the year at the Stephen Leacock Theatre in Keswick on February 23, 24, 25, and 26.

The Laramie Project is a groundbreaking play by Moisés Kaufman and the Tectonic Theatre Project. It was first produced in 2000 as a response to the brutal 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man, in Laramie, Wyoming.

Jamie Defoe Lavigne, who is producing and playing a role in the QP production, said they chose this play because it’s still relevant and brings awareness to LGBTQ+ issues.

“It brings an important message that needs to be heard in our community, especially being a small community, that’s not maybe exposed to different issues surrounding the LGBTQ+ community,” she said.

Lavigne said that hatred towards the LGBTQ+ community persists more than twenty years after the play was first produced, citing the mass shooting on November 19, 2022, at an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Colorado Springs, which left five people killed and 25 injured.

She also said negative views of the LGBTQ+ community continue to be spread on social media.

According to Lavigne, recent posts supporting the decision of Philadelphia Flyers defencemen Ivan Provorov to boycott his team’s Pride night before the January 17 NHL game reflects this.

“It’s still happening, and I think too many people have just swept it under the carpet,” she said.

Lavigne recently got a wakeup call when she read several comments in response to her casting call on Facebook. It showed her that there is still a lack of understanding around LGBTQ+ issues in our community.

According to Lavigne, a person in one Facebook group took issue with the gender-inclusive language used in her post.

Lavigne ended up shutting off commenting, as the comments crossed a line for her.

“People are thinking it, but to be so bold as to come out and put it in a public forum, I was like, wow,” she said.

Leah Sheridan, the co-founder of Georgina Pride, is glad that the play is being performed in Keswick.

“LGBTQ+ people are still being murdered, mistreated, bullied, and treated differently because of who they are. The amount of suicide as well is astounding. The story needs to be heard over and over again until people understand,” she said.

She said a table will be set up in the Stephen Leacock Theatre lobby before each performance to provide information about what they offer in the community.

While QP has become known for their musical productions, The Lamarie Project, with its serious subject matter, represents a departure for the group. But that may be a good thing, according to Lavigne.

“We want to let people know that we’re not just a group that puts on some fun plays, and that’s it, we’re also here to make you think, we’re also here to put art forward in the community,” she said.

Lavigne also hopes a groundbreaking play, like The Lamarie Project, will help raise the profile of the theatre group in the community.

“We want people to come out and enjoy our shows. At this point, it’d be nice if we had some community backing. Let’s not drive to the city for a Mirvish production when we have some awesome quality theatre right here in town.”

While it is a serious play, Lavigne said people should come to see it because there are touching moments, and it is a piece that will make you think and start conversations with friends and family.

“I think that the play still moves people because it humanizes the story; it gives the story from each person’s perspective,” she said.

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