Julia D.

$1,000 Scholarships.com Art Scholarship Award Winner

Theatre serves many purposes for me, not only as an outlet for creativity and self-expression, but also as a catalyst for change, hence why I’ve chosen it as my career path. Looking at my conservative, homogeneous town, it was obvious that change was just what we needed. That’s why I took on the challenge of an optional senior project: directing a full scale production of The Laramie Project, the heartbreaking story of a brutal anti-gay hate crime in the modern Midwest. Based on the 1998 Matthew Shepard murder, it was written by Moises Kaufman, who traveled to Laramie, Wyoming to conduct interviews with residents, family and friends soon after Shepard’s death.

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That the project would cause controversy was obvious to me from the beginning, but the overwhelming response I’ve gotten was unforeseen. Even though we're still in the production process, my actors and I have gotten plenty of attention, positive and negative, for addressing the taboo issues of sexuality and homophobia in our school and town. When word first got out about my project, a teacher told me what I was doing was a “mistake,” and I shouldn't “stir things up.” I was haunted by this for weeks, and wondered what other negative responses I'd receive. I considered calling the show off, but when the positive support started rolling in, I knew I couldn't. I received cards from my school’s Gay-Straight Alliance with dozens of signatures and messages of appreciation. Letters in the local newspaper and Facebook messages from schoolmates whom I’ve never even met have expressed gratitude for taking on the show, and ticket sales have already been overwhelmingly successful. A good friend of mine, an actor in the show, with the cast and me to support him, recently came out to his parents and can’t wait for them to see him perform.

If theatre, as a career, can help me change as much as it has as an extracurricular, then I see no other choice but to make it my life.

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