In Part 5 of a series of interviews with the Director and cast of Kensington Arts Theatre’s The Laramie Project, meet Francisco Borja.
Joel: Please introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you perform before on local stages?
My name is Francisco Borja and recent performances that I’ve been in are A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, at Montgomery College Summer Dinner Theatre, and Servant of Two Masters at Montgomery College.
Why did you want to be part of the cast of KAT’s The Laramie Project?
The Laramie Project is one of my favorite shows, and, in my opinion, it is also one of the most important shows in theatre history. The Laramie Project focuses on a community as it unravels, and then attempts to heal, in the wake of a tragic hate crime. It also brings to attention the flaws that we have within our communities, societies, and ultimately ourselves; and, it does this without attempting to hide or sensationalize the parts that make us uncomfortable. This show tasks it’s actors with an immense responsibility to take the material and “say it right.” As an actor to be a part of a show like this absolutely breathtaking, and that’s why I wanted to be a part of it.
Who do you play in the show and how do you relate to your character?
Like my fellow cast members, I play several characters in the show. Out of the characters that I play I would say that I relate most to Jonas Slonaker. He’s living in the city he wants to live and having the life he wants to have, but he is not blind to the flaws of a city like Laramie. As a gay man living in that city during the time of the murder his point of view becomes crucial to understanding the behavior of this town towards the LGBT community. In his interviews he doesn’t hold anything back, and is completely honest about what it’s like in Laramie. It’s that full honestly that he exhibits that I can relate to.
How much did you know about Matthew Shepard and what took place on October 6, 1998, and what has been the most interesting thing you have learned about him and that event since you started working on this production?
Coming into this production I knew the basics of what happened, who was involved, and the outcome. Once I started doing research on Laramie, the people, and Matthew Shepard it changed the show for me. Rereading the show now I see people rather than characters; I see a community that was struggling to cope rather than the exposition of a city. Among the information that was uncovered during the rehearsal processes the most interesting, and important aspects for me had to do with Matthew Shepard’s life before his death. He was more than just what happened on October 6, 1998, in Laramie, Wyoming. Matthew Shepard was a person who existed before that day, and it’s important to acknowledge that as well.
What have been some of the challenges you have had during rehearsals and how did Director John Nunemaker help you to resolve them and to mold your performance?
The biggest challenge with a show that has this many characters, and meant to have fewer actors, is doing every character justice. These characters are real people that lived before this show was written and existed afterwards. Encapsulating a fully realized human being in one scene or in a few lines is difficult. John, however, has helped us work through that with the clarity of his vision. From the first rehearsal it was clear that he has a vision he is perusing in his direction of the show; his explanations, his clarity, and most of all his honestly have been amazing molding tools in this process. He has helped all of us bring these people to life as three dimensional figures, instead of just characters or caricatures.
What has impressed you most about your fellow cast members?
I’ve been impressed by my fellow cast members dedication and commitment to the show and to “saying it right.” In the beginning there wasn’t a day that went by without someone in the cast coming in with a new article, or a new piece of information. Then once we started putting the show on its feet, we were able to find our character through a combination of our personal work, John’s direction, and support from the cast. Watching everyone’s hard work and passion for towards the show has been an amazing experience.
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing you perform in The Laramie Project?
When audiences come see the show, I want them to walk away realizing that this is a show that is about more than just Laramie, Wyoming in 1998. It is a show that discusses the human condition as it encounters hate. This show is about a community like any other dealing with the aftermath of a vicious hate crime. A hate crime committed because of sexual orientation, yes, but one that could just as easily have been committed because of religion, because of gender identity, or even because of race. This show doesn’t just talk about us then, it also talks about us now, about us today.
The Laramie Project plays from February 5-20, 2016 at Kensington Arts Theatre – performing at The Kensington Town Hall – 3710 Mitchell Street in Kensington, MD. For tickets call the box office at (206) 888-6642, or purchase them online.
Interviews With the Cast of Kensington Arts Theatre’s ‘The Laramie Project’: Part 1: Susan S. Porter.
Interviews With the Cast and Director of Kensington Arts Theatre’s ‘The Laramie Project’: Part 2: Zoe Bulitt.
Interviews With the Cast and Director of Kensington Arts Theatre’s ‘The Laramie Project’: Part 3: Natalie McManus.
Interviews With the Cast and Director of Kensington Arts Theatre’s ‘The Laramie Project’:Part 4: Clancey Yovanovich.
Interviews With the Cast and Director of Kensington Arts Theatre’s ‘The Laramie Project’: Part 5: Francisco Borja.