Meet the Actor – The Laramie Project’s Cecilia Gigliotti

The Laramie Project opens tomorrow night! Catch up with actor Cecilia Gigliotti and get your tickets at the link above.

What characters do you play in the show?
I play Romaine Patterson, Tiffany Edwards, Barbara Pitts, Newsperson #3, Juror #4
What’s your avorite thing about theater?
My favorite thing about theater is that it’s live, so no two performances are identical!
What’s your favorite role to date?
My very first role, fourth grade – Anna Leonowens in The King and I.
Have you worked at Hole in the Wall before?
Some may remember me as Virginia from Scott Stephen Kegler’s Pseudo Period Poppycock during the 2015 24-Hour Play Festival.
What made you audition for The Laramie Project?
As a longtime HITW patron, I was eager to get involved in a full-scale production here; and as an actor whose repertoire consists of more musical theater than straight theater, I recognized Laramie as a modern classic which could teach me a lot about being a well-rounded performer.
Have you personally been affected by, or ever felt complicit in, hate crime?
I feel you can be a victim of hate and, on separate occasions, been complicit in a hate act against others. While I have fortunately never been either the target or the perpetrator of a hate crime, I have experienced such events as a bystander. The school I attended as an undergraduate periodically faced swastika graffiti and other messages of intolerance, and I sympathized with friends who felt attacked. I wanted also to express my own discomfort and disillusionment that this sort of message could be promoted by classmates of mine, but I didn’t know how to because the actions didn’t impact me directly. So I became complacent, probably more so than was acceptable. Studying people like those involved in the events of Laramie has helped me to discover just how dangerous complacency can be,
hy do you think The Laramie Project is important to produce in the current state of America?
We live in a period of unprecedented volatility. Our administration is unstable and people all over the country are rebelling, lashing out, finding reasons to attack, destroy, and hate one another. The principle behind Angel Action bears as much relevance now as it did in 1998, if not more. LGBTQ+ rights are still a hot-button issue, and these communities need artists and creators to stand in solidarity with them, to affirm them. Our job as actors is to demonstrate that affirmation.
What’s the most exciting part about getting to play a number of characters in the same show? What’s the most challenging part about it?
These two go hand in hand: it’s exhilarating to delve into four or five separate personalities in the span of one show, and the challenge lies in molding each one distinctly (voice, stance, demeanor) and ensuring that the audience acknowledges the shift from one into another.
Do you remember the beating and subsequent death of Matthew Shepard? How did it affect you at the time? If you are too young to remember it yourself, do you remember how you heard about it the first time?
I had just turned three at the time of the events themselves; it wasn’t until the summer before my senior year of high school, on a college tour, that I saw a poster for an upcoming production of the play and took it upon myself to learn everything. I remember thinking, “This couldn’t possibly have happened.” Even after our first read-through a few weeks ago, I marveled at the details. I couldn’t believe human beings, two young men my age, were capable of an atrocity like that. It’s opened my eyes and made me a bit sadder and a bit wiser.
What does it feel like to portray real, living people? Do you feel a stronger sense of responsibility knowing these are not made-up characters?
That these are real people has been the most meaningful aspect of the process for me. Soon after being cast I sought out Romaine’s memoir and devoured it within two days. I’ve learned more and more about the long line of performers I am joining who have participated in this work. To recreate such a powerful story from across the country right here in New Britain, CT, is something special.
Do you play any characters whose beliefs differ from yours? Is it difficult to portray them fairly and without judgment?
Ironically enough, the one character whose views appear to differ from mine is Juror #4, who says yes to giving one of the perpetrators the death penalty. Like the character Matt Galloway, and for the same reasons, I don’t believe in the death penalty. That said, with every rehearsal it gets easier to see into the minds of the people who were raised to feel differently. And working alongside a dedicated and professional-minded cast makes this a team effort in the truest sense.
In one sentence: what is The Laramie Project about?
Laramie is about a community which acknowledges, confronts, and combats hatred in small but steady steps.