(Barbara Isenberg's article appeared in The Los Angeles Times, October 11, 2009)
Matthew Shepard's murder, 10 years later
The creators of 'The Laramie Project' revisit the Wyoming city to assess lasting impact of the gay student's killing. Their updates are being performed Oct. 12 by 150 groups.
Last fall, as every fall for 10 years, playwright and director Moisés Kaufman was thinking about the 1998 killing of gay college student Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyo. Kaufman's Tectonic Theater Project had gone to Laramie just weeks after Shepard's horrific murder, interviewed townspeople and transformed their interview tapes into the well-received "The Laramie Project," produced first as a play and later an HBO film.
But fall 2008 had special meaning. "The 10-year anniversary was coming up, and I started thinking about the long-term impact of Matthew's murder," says Kaufman. "I thought if we returned to Laramie, we could have a sense of how an event like that translated into change that is concrete and lasting 10 years later."
So Kaufman and colleagues from the New York-based Tectonic went back to Laramie, did more interviews, and started writing again. On Monday evening, 150 theaters from New York to Los Angeles, Orlando to Syracuse and Madrid to Hong Kong will host staged readings of the 80-minute "The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later." Many theater companies and universities have added seminars, panels, film screenings and other programming. It's an unusually broad-based effort, and one that has implications for American theater at large.
(A selection from The Laramie Project is included in One on One: The Best Men's Monologues for the 21st Century from Applause Theatre and Cinema Books.)
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