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An evening of fine arts at Denfeld

Senior Alex Wilcox plays Aaron McKinney in prison for killing Matthew Shepard in the one-act production of "The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later." (Photo by Teri Cadeau)1 / 3
Actors waiting for their cues in Denfeld's one-act production of "The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later." (Photo by Teri Cadeau)2 / 3
Denfeld senior Matt Reese, playing writer Greg Pierotti, speaks with senior Alex Wilcox, who plays Aaron McKinney in prison in the one-act production of "The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later." The play will be performed as part of the Denfeld's Evening of Fine Arts on Feb. 2. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)3 / 3

Students involved in the fine arts at Denfeld High School will have the opportunity to show off their skills at the Denfeld Evening of Fine Arts on Feb. 2. The program will showcase students in the fine arts with music, speeches, art, culinary treats and theater.

Theater director Matthew Pursi and choir director Paul Christenson teamed up with fellow teachers to create the program as a way to showcase the varied talents of Denfeld’s students.

“It was a tradition, when I went to school here back in the day to have a fine arts night, but it’s kind of fallen by the wayside. So we’re bringing it back and hope to make it an annual event,” Pursi said.

The event will run for two hours. The first hour will focus on musical talent with performances by the band, directed by Josh Leigh, the orchestra, directed by Clare Chopp and the two performance choirs, Solid Gold and Messa di Voce, directed new choir teacher Paul Christenson. Each musical form will receive about 20 minutes to perform.

“I’m really excited for everyone to see the dedication and the hard work these students put in,” Christenson said.

There will be an intermission to give attendees an opportunity to examine a showcase of student art and graphic design work.

The second half of the performance will be dedicated to performances by the speech and one-act teams.

This year’s one-act is “The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later.” On Nov. 6, 1998, gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard left the Fireside Bar with Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. The following day Shepard was discovered on a prairie at the edge of town, tied to a fence, brutally beaten and close to death. Six days later he died. On Nov. 14, 1998, 10 members of Tectonic Theatre Project traveled to Laramie and conducted interviews with the people of the town. Over the next year, the company returned to Laramie six times and conducted over 200 interviews. These texts became the basis for the play “The Laramie Project.”

Ten years later five members of Tectonic returned to Laramie to try to understand the long-term effect of the murder.

“This is still a story that needs to be out there. It’s a case study of how a hate crime affects a town, even 10 years after the fact,” said Denfeld senior Matt Reese.

Reese plays Greg Pierotti, a member of Tectonic who interviews convicted killer Aaron McKinney, played by first time actor Alex Wilcox. A dozen other actors round out the cast and play various townspeople, reporters and theater company members.

As per the rules of the one-act competition, the play has been cut down from its usual two-hour runtime to 35 minutes. It also features a bare-bones portable set that must fit within a 10-by-10-foot square before the performance and moved onto the stage in 10 minutes or less.

The cast will perform the play as part of the Minnesota State One-Act section 7AA subsection contest hosted by Duluth East High School on Jan. 28.

“I’m glad we get the chance to perform this for our friends and family and the public,” Wilcox said. “I’m excited to show off my acting chops.”

If you go

Denfeld Evening of Fine Arts

401 N. 44th Ave. W.

Thursday, Feb. 2

Doors open at 6 p.m.
Music begins at 6:15 p.m.

Theater starts at 7:30 p.m.
Donations welcome at the door.

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Budgeteer.

(218) 720-4176