Live theater back: Two McNeese productions have been in works for a year

Marlisa Harding

Live theater will return to Lake Charles next week for the first time since last Spring’s abrupt end to such events with two performances from McNeese Theatre.

“The Last Five Years” will debut on Wednesday, April 14, at 7:30 p.m. and will continue on Friday, April 16, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 18, at 2 p.m. “The Laramie Project” will debut on Thursday, April 15, and will continue on Saturday, April 17 at 2 p.m.

All performances are free, open to the public and will be held at the Lake Charles Historic Cash and Carry Building, 801 Enterprise Blvd.

“The Last Five Years” is a musical directed by and starring McNeese State University seniors Lara Lignitz and Peyton Stanford. The performance is part of both students’ capstone project which usually includes a performance in which a senior directs or acts in a show.

“But we are ambitious and were given permission to do both as part of our capstone,” Lignitz said.

Charles McNeely, associate professor of theatre arts, said the move was not surprising as Lignitz and Peyton are “two of the most talented students” he’d ever worked with. Additionally, unlike traditional capstones, Lignitz and Peyton’s work is being officially billed as part of the McNeese Theatre spring season rather than a student project alone.  

“The Last Five Years” chronicles the romantic relationship of two young people who meet in New York City, fall in love and break up in the course five years, Stanford said.

“It’s about relationships and how you grow and change or don’t in that relationship. It’s the nature of how you can be in the same place and having the same conversation with someone but saying different things,” Lignitz said.

Musical numbers tie the dialogue and plot together as it is told in a non-linear fashion. “Cathy tells the story from the end of the relationship to the beginning and Jamie tells it from the beginning until the end and they’re meshed into each other,” Stanford said.

“The Laramie Project” will debut the same week as “The Last Five Years” and similarly demonstrates the power of personal point of view. It is a form of “devised theater,” McNeely said, which “gives perspectives from many mind sets” on the 1998 murder of a gay university student in Laramie, Wyoming.

“What is incredible about this show is that usually when you have a play you have one person’s mind set writing the whole thing. With this show, what the group did was they took excerpts and pieces…So, it’s not just talking about how terrible it was. It certainly was. But it allows the audience to really see the entire picture of this event that happened in this relatively small town.”

“The Laramie Project” has over 70 roles which are divided among 10 actors. Each actors plays eight to 10 roles giving their insight into the events surrounding the murder.

“It’s a great challenge for the student actors and the student backstage people because so much is happening. They go back and come back as another character so it has to be very coordinated.”

McNeese Theatre has been working over a year on both projects and McNeely said it a great triumph to finally be able to share the art with the public. “After a year of setbacks, we’re extremely excited to bring live theater back to the Lake Charles community. Both of these productions are extremely powerful and feature both former cast members and students who are taking the stage for the first time.”

For more information, call 475-5040 or visit www.mcneese.edu/performingartsboxoffice.””

McNeese seniors Lara Lignitz and Peyton Stanford are directing and starring  in the musical, “The Last Five Years.”

Larry Wayne Reed Jr

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