Yesterday I reported that a production of “The Laramie Project” scheduled for the Tyler Civic Theatre appeared to be in jeopardy yet again, according to Troy Carlyle, chair of Tyler Area Gays (Project TAG). But apparently there’s a difference of opinion even among supporters of the production as to what’s really happening — or at least, what should be happening. Not to start a Dallas-style bitchfest in East Texas, but it’s worth noting that Director Trinity Wheeler simply doesn’t agree with Carlyle’s assessments. Wheeler, a Tyler native who now lives and works in New York, is returning to his hometown to put on the show. Here’s Wheeler’s response to Carlyle’s comments:
“I have maintained from the beginning that ‘The Laramie Project’ is about an entire community dealing with the death of a young gay man in Laramie, WY. The play displays the power of community when people come together to deal with crisis and support each other through the healing process. While Project TAG’s initial intentions were to support the play financially, their response to recent events has divided the East Texas gay community. The true meaning of ‘The Laramie Project’ is acceptance across the spectrum of race, gender, religion, class, sexuality and creed. I feel strongly that Tyler Civic Theatre is the perfect venue for this production and the theater’s Board of Directors have been supportive since the re-approval vote last month. This is a learning process for everyone involved. The theater has never staged a production that has caused this much community debate in its entire history. There are members of the theater’s staff that have fears about this production, but I must respect those fears and work through them in a productive manner. In the end, everyone involved wants this play to happen.
“As far as the gay community is concerned, last month’s rally in support of ‘The Laramie Project’ was the biggest movement for acceptance of gays in the East Texas community in my lifetime. ‘The Laramie Project’ has already started a conversation in the community about acceptance. There are deep-seeded fears about homosexuality in East Texas, and this play has the power to be the first step toward equality for all. I cannot let ‘The Laramie Project’ become about semantics over title billing and fundraising with Project TAG. The head of Project TAG released a newsletter last week to their members stating an emotional, skewed version on the facts surrounding the issues with Tyler Civic Theatre and left it up to each TAG member to decide if they want to support this production. Both sides of this heated debate have valid points, but I need an underwriting partner that is with me to the end no matter what challenges surface. I hope that Project TAG’s members will see the good in this production and continue to support the venture. As an openly gay man, I believe the community needs this play and I have made a promise to East Texas that it will open on June 17 at Tyler Civic Theatre.”