Probing hate: Could Laramie happen here?
The nation was stunned in 1998 when gay college student Matthew Shepherd was severely beaten and left hanging on a fence in Laramie, Wyoming. Shepherd died from his injuries and exposure shortly after the assault. In its third production of the current season, the UVA Drama Department stages The Laramie Project, a documentary-style play responding to the Shepherd tragedy.
Written by Moises Kaufman and the members of the Tectonic Theater Project, the play attempts to probe the repercussions of an act motivated by hatred. Drawing from actual interviews conducted and compiled by the company–a New York theater troupe who journeyed to Laramie one month after the incident– the play profiles many people who were directly and indirectly affected by the murder.
In six separate visits, the crew secured more than 400 hours of taped interviews. Combining these edited accounts with factual research provided the basis for what has become a ground-breaking play. The Laramie Project incorporates testimonies from an assortment of the town’s residents: courtroom witnesses, religious figures, law enforcement members, college officials, and Shepherd’s friends.
Portraying the over 100 characters in the play is an ensemble of eight UVA actors, featuring both graduate students and undergraduates: Sarah Allen, Ben Bolling, Logan Byers, Beth Gervain, Gil Gonzalez, Katie Liddicoat, Alex Major, and Maura Molloy.
Artistic director Richard Warner, head of acting for the Department, believes that the Charlottesville community will benefit from seeing this production: “I think the play presents, in a direct and compelling way, a look at who we are as Americans in 2003.” Moises Kaufman, director of the original project, wanted to find out how the town of Laramie was different from the rest of the country and how it was similar.
“I wanted to ask those same questions about Charlottesville,” Warner says.
To facilitate a conversation about the issues raised by the play, the Drama Department has joined forces with the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center at UVA to present a post-performance discussion with cast members and others after tonight’s show.
Attend the play, then stay for a half-hour longer to ask your own questions and listen to what others have to say about this thought-provoking production about an American tragedy.
The Laramie Project continues through Saturday, February 22, at the Culbreth Theater, 109 Culbreth Road. 8pm. $7-12. UVA students can use their ART$ dollars to purchase tickets. 924-3376.