Friday, February 12, 2010

The Laramie Project

The Laramie Project is a play by Moises Kaufman that culls together interviews conducted by Tectonic Theater Project with various people from Laramie, WY, as well as people associated with Matthew Shepard who was brutally tortured and murdered in October of 1998 in a hate crime related to his homosexuality.
The play deals with the reactions of various people from his hometown including the boy who found him after the assault, random townspeople who knew the boys involved in the assault, the bartender from the bar where Matthew was last seen, various LGBT people from the town, a member of the clergy, associates from the college he attended and many others. There are many poignant essays about the effect his death had on the town, I pretty much sobbed during the entire show when I saw it.
A few important points:
- The movie version (by HBO) incorporates real footage from the news reports covering the events including Ellen's heartbreaking reaction, and a very intense vigil in Washington Square Park in NYC all shouting "shame" over and over again which makes me choke up just to think about it.
-There is a great moment where Fred Phelps and his horrific, bigoted, homophobic, nazi-esque, hate group the Westboro Baptist Church come to protest at Matthew Shepard's funeral and spew there hate. However, they soon find that the people of Laramie are not going to take their hatred lying down. A group of people dressed up as angels with super big wings stand between the funeral and the protesters so that the protestors cannot be hard. NICE.
- During the annual Laramie parade (for the 4th of July maybe? or just civic pride) a small group of people join on at the end in show of support of Matthew Shepard and his family. By the time the parade is finished, thousands of people have joined in.
- One of the most intense moments comes at the end, during the sentencing of Matthew's killers, when Shepard's father basically says Matthew supported the death penalty despite what people might think, and although he (Matthew' father) very much wants them to die for the pain they have caused his family, he knows that sparing their lives will force them to give thanks each and every day to the boy they killed. Intense.
When I was in college my former high school put on a performance of "The Laramie Project" that was protested by Phelp's "church." As it turned out, the protest of the protest was way bigger than the actual protest. We rock!
This is a great play, everyone should read it, if only to see that a community doesn't need to be defined by a tragedy that occurs there, and to always remember the memory of Matthew Shepard in hopes that a similar tragedy will not occur again.

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