Spotlight Series: Meet Jon Peterson of P3 Theatre Roulette, Presenting "THE LARAMIE PROJECT" Online


Jon Peterson, Executive Artistic Director/Founder of P3 Theatre Roulette, is presenting a virtual reading of Moisés Kaufman and the Members of the Tectonic Theatre Project’s masterful play The Laramie Project at P3Theatre.biz/p3-theatre-roulette. The online presentation features Emily Abeles, Guillermo Alonso, Alden Bettencourt, Kara Brouelette, Elizabeth Curtin, Christy Mauro-Cohen, Jodi Marks, Philip McBride and Jeremy Saje, each of whom will be reading from their individual “safe at home” locations. For more information, please call (714) 689-8116.

For those not familiar with the facts upon which the play is based, in October 1998, a twenty-one-year-old student at the University of Wyoming was kidnapped, severely beaten, and left tied to a fence in the middle of the prairie outside Laramie, Wyoming. His bloody, bruised, and battered body was not discovered until the next day, and he died several days later in an area hospital. His name was Matthew Shepard, and he was the victim of this assault because he was gay.

Moisés Kaufman and fellow members of the Tectonic Theater Project made six trips to Laramie over the course of a year and a half, both in the aftermath of the beating and during the trial of the two young men accused of killing Shepard, during which they conducted more than 200 interviews with the people of the town. Some people interviewed were directly connected to the case, while others were citizens of Laramie, and the breadth of the reactions to the crime led Kaufman and Tectonic Theater members to construct a deeply moving theatrical experience from these interviews and their own experiences in Laramie.

Their groundbreaking play, The Laramie Project, is a breathtaking collage that explores the depths to which humanity can sink and the heights of compassion of which we are capable. And in these uncertain times when the world must learn to cope with the uncertainty and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic which is both isolating and uniting us, I cannot think of a better play to experience with your entire family to start a conversation about why equality is so vital to a civilized society.

Jon Peterson, who is directing the production, shares “To be honest, since the switch over from real life staging to virtual happened, I've been scrambling around just trying to find ways to be innovative, stay relevant, and give back to the community. We are a new theatre company, and I'm pretty much running a one-man operation at this point.”

Shari Barrett (SB): As a point of clarification for readers, I held my interview with Jon just hours prior to the death of George Floyd in police custody and the protests/violence that have ensued afterwards.

(SB): What led to your decision to present THE LARAMIE PROJECT now?

 

Jon Peterson (Jon): Ever since the South Coast Chorale did a concert based upon the Matthew Shepard story, his story has weighed very heavily on my heart.  I believe we are at a point in our modern existence where we have the opportunity to unite and get through this, or divide and not be so fortunate.  I feel the last 3-4 years have seen some regression in overall acceptance in this country and I don’t want to lose this precious progress that many minority groups have made in basic societal acceptance.  This story serves as a reminder of what we don’t want this country to become.  Also, June 1st is the beginning of Pride month, so I figured the gay theme would be very fitting.

(SB):  How did you audition cast members?

(Jon): With the exception of one cast member, I’ve seen them onstage in a previous P3 production and have worked with them onstage or both.  They were each picked because of their talent as actors, and with character diversity in mind.

(SB): How are you holding rehearsals?

(Jon): We are at the mercy of Zoom.  Each person is at their own home (with the exception of two cast members who live together) and on their computers/phones/iPads.  We started our first rehearsal and talked about the story.  Most of the cast members were either very young, or not born in 1998, but every single person in the cast had heard the story.  Then we broke it down by acts (there are 3).  It’s been a fun challenge because each actor plays multiple roles.  I can’t wait for you to see the talent that has assembled to donate their time and talents to this production!

(SB): What do you hope audiences take away from the production, especially if they tune in with their families?  

(Jon): What I would like audiences to take away from the production is the realization that people are just that, people: Black, White, Buddhist, Mormon, gay, straight, transgender, male, female.  Each one of us is unique, one of a kind, and special.  Let’s not wait for another tragedy to remind ourselves of that.

P3 Theatre Company would like to send out their wishes that everyone stays safe, healthy and sane at this time.  Live in-person theatre will be back and we hope it will be welcomed with open arms.  Support your local theatres!

(SB): While there is no cost for virtual audience members to register for P3 Theatre Roulette programming, there are still costs incurred by P3 Theatre Company to produce The Laramie Project and other titles during their Monday night virtual series. These costs include licensing of the material, streaming platform fees, and marketing. Currently, P3 artists are sharing their talents in the series on a volunteer basis. But to work toward our mission, P3 Theatre Company would like to be in a position to provide paid opportunities for these artists. If you would like to contribute toward the P3 Theatre Roulette series or to P3 Theatre Company, please visit their donation page HERE.


This article first appeared on Broadway World.


Philip McBride, a musical theatre actor

Spotlight Series: Meet Philip McBride, A Musical Theater Actor and Stage-Savvy Guy


This Spotlight focuses on Philip McBride, a musical theatre actor whom I have seen in many productions all over town. His skillful comic timing and brilliant smile light up the stage and his respect for others earn him accolades from everyone with whom he creates theatre magic.


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

Philip McBride (Phil): What a journey it has been to this point! I started performing in local theatre in my hometown of Beaumont, TX, when I was ten and became obsessed with it. Eventually, I went to college for Opera—I thought the classical training techniques were the smarter choice at the time)—and put musical theater on the side for a bit until a friend of mine suggested auditioning for a school in New York our sophomore year.

Flash forward a couple of months and we’re living the dream, going to school in New York, and I end up landing a job working on the production side of some high-profile Broadway productions. That job ultimately led to joining the national tour of one of the biggest shows, still on the production side, and I toured with them for four years before moving back to New York and beginning work in our main offices overseeing countless Broadway shows, national tours, music artists, etc. during which I was surrounded by the best of the best in entertainment.

In the summer of 2016, the company offered me the chance to move to Los Angeles and I leapt at the opportunity. Upon arrival, I started doing anything I could to seek out a theatre community, as I had spent the past thirteen years working in, but had not been actively pursuing performing. I saw a couple shows around town, and eventually realized that the passion for theatre was still inside me. Flash forward to 2020 and I’ve managed to amass almost 50 shows under my LA theatre belt.

(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out you needed to immediately postpone/cancel the show?

(Phil): I was music directing and playing Horton the Elephant in The Fable Theatre’s inaugural production of Seussical. We were set to open March 27th, 2020, and we had been following the news about the spread of the virus. And once we got the news of New York theaters shutting down, we knew it was most likely only a matter of time until the same security measures were taken across the country. Our entire production team had a day of chatting about it and, ultimately, had to make the decision to halt production and notify our entire Company. It was a very sad day after all the work that was put into the show. And I also had a couple other performance opportunities that have since been postponed for the time being.

(SB): Are plans in place to present that production at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent?

(Phil): Like everything currently, we’re in a state of hold until we know more about the current state of affairs. The entire production team would love to present Seussical the show when it’s safe to do so but obviously additional factors then come into play including venue availability, company member availability, production rights, etc.

(SB): I hear the same thing from others in that theatrical productions are always tied to windows of availability, and with no set date to resume production, it is difficult to know not only when but “if” a show ready to be presented at the time of the shutdown can be presented in the future.

(Phil): Yes, we are all in the same boat, not knowing where we should be paddling. And I’m such a neurotic planner, I had a couple irons in the fire for future projects. Most of them, like Seussical, are hopefully only on hold but only time will tell.

(SB):  How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(Phil): For me, I’m having such a blast watching so many people I know and across the country posting videos of themselves performing. It’s such a joy to see people still turning to musical theatre to keep them calm and helping to entertain others. Additionally, some of my future projects were dependent on me completing work so I’ve been able to focus on arranging musical mash-ups, orchestrating, curating material, etc. While this has been highly inconvenient to so many people across the country, I’m choosing to think of it as a reset for myself and just trying to find the positive in every day.

(SB): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the ghost light on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Phil): People will always need the joy and escape that live theatre brings. As humans, we always want to do what we can to help and as performers, sadly, our “help” is not something we can provide at this time. At least, not in the way we’re used to. While the ghost lights are burning bright in the theaters across our area—helping to guide and protect the spirits looking over out stages—it’s not lost on me that those same ghost lights will be guiding us all back to the theatre soon.

And one more thing I’d like to share with my fellow actors and artists—when I was preparing to move to Los Angeles, I had so many people in New York telling me how much I would not enjoy Los Angeles as there was no theatre scene. How wrong they were! The Los Angeles theatre scene has embraced me and introduced me to so many ridiculously talented and wonderful people and I personally cannot wait to be able to get back into those comfy theatre seats, hear the orchestra tune up, and see my friends light up those stages once again doing what they were born to do. It will be an absolutely amazing day when we all get to say “Thank you, places” and be ready for our cue to get back onstage.


This article first appeared on Broadway World.