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ATWT: SID Article with Van Hansis (Luke)

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Whether on stage or onscreen, actors are are often tasked with simply entertaining an audience, but sometimes a production comes along that allows them to send a message and possibly effect change. And on December 1, 2006, AS THE WORLD TURNS' Van Hansis (Luke) was given such an opportunity when he was selected to participate in a special bennefit performance of The Laramie Project alongside such starts as Stockard Channing, Joshua Jackson and Judith Light (ex-Karen, OLTL)

" When I found out who was in it, I was flabbergasted," he confesses. "It was a huge honor to share the stage with these people, I was thrilled."

The Ultimate Tragedy:

The play, which depicts events in the town of Laramie, WY, following the tragic murder of gay teen Matthew Shepard, involves a small cast portraying the residents as they deal with one of the most infamous hate crimes in America. Having appeared in a production years ago in Pittsburgh, Hansis was familiear with the material, but this time around, he was not only sharing the stage with Tony and Emmy winners but performing fro the executive directer of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, Shepard's mother, Judy.

"I can't fathom what it must have been like for her and her husband," Hansis says, grasping for the words, "I mean that's... she lost her child in a terrible way, And I'm not a parent, but I would assume that's the worst thing that could happen to you...is to lose a child.

"And for her to take this hideous crime and turn it into something so benevolent and powerful and so necessary for the state of of the world in which we live," he continues, " I don't know how she has the strength to do this, She's a complete inspiration."

Spreading the Word:

With its message of erasing hate and promoting diversity, its a good thing that The Laramie Project is one of the most produced plays in America, especially in schools. "It's the perfect play for high schools, Hansis says, "because it's a big cast and you can do it on a small budget, It's touched millions upon millions of people. "It's been able to go places that are maybe more close-minded and open people's eyes to accepting diversity and understanding," Hansis continues, " I don't think you can say enough for what this play has done for social change, I really think it's made a huge difference."

A Tale to Tell:

In it's own way, ATWT has also done its part in promoting diversity by having Luke come out of the closet, and while fellow soap General Hospital told a gay bashing storyline with it's own gay teen, Hansis appreciates the more subtle bias his own character has encountered. " I think its better that the drama came out of peoples reactions and feelings instead of coming out of an event", he muses. " It's probably a more complicated story the way we did it and more true to life, I would think.

Since coming out, Luke has been relegated to supporting status, but Hansis doesn't mind the slower development of his character. " It's a delicate balance," he admits, "because you can't completely ignore the fact that Luke's gay, but if every story was about Luke being gay, then that would kind of make him a poster child and not really a full, well rounded character."

Love In Mind:

Daytime actors never really know what's coming fro their alter egos until they get thier next scripts, but Hansis remains confident that fans can expect to see Luke getting a boyfriend eventually. " Soap operas are based around relationships, "he declares" "So I would assume that that's going to happen at some point."

But how does the actor feel about playing that particular storyline? I'm not in a huge story right now," Hansis says with a chuckle " and I miss the work. I miss having some really meaty scenes, I think it'll be a good story. Luke is such a fantastic character and a character that I love playing so much that I can't wait to see what happens next for him."

On Having Co-Star Martha Byrne (Lily) and ATWT Executive producer CG in the Audience:

I felt proud to be representing the daytime community up on that stage, He says, " and I was glad that some of my daytime community came and saw me."

On his role in this performance:

"Last time, I played one of the killers and a 65 year old limo driver, "Hansis says. "The role that I did in the reading wasn't one hat I'd done before. It was the bicyclist who found the body."

On Working with the cast:

"Everyone was cool and down to earth," Hansis reveals. " So we did all get along really well. And everybody knew the importance of what we were doing."

On who he wanted to meet:

"I was excited to meet Judith Light (Ugly Betty) because she went to my college, he confides. " and I have some friends who know her and have said really, really great things about her, and she was an awesome lady."

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