Broken Box’s upcoming show, The Laramie Project, depicts the reaction of townspeople from Laramie, Wyoming, to the murder of an openly gay college student, Matthew Shephard. Shephard was enrolled at the University of Wyoming, located in Laramie, at the time of his murder in October 1998. The murderers Russell A. Henderson, 21, and Aaron J. McKinney, 22, allegedly murdered Shephard over his homosexuality, which consequently sparked national attention over U.S. hate crime laws. Congress passed the Matthew Shephard Act in 2009, which recognizes the gravity of hate crimes and provides funds to prosecute perpetrators.
In the wake of Shephard’s murder, playwright Moises Kaufman and his Tectonic Theater Project troupe conceived a play that would compile hundreds of interviews conducted with Laramie citizens into a relatable story. The result, The Laramie Project, made its debut in February 2000 and became a popular performance with many colleges, community theaters and high schools across the US; Broken Box first performed the show in 2004. However, there have been detractors to the play, with the Westboro Baptist Church being the most prominent.
“Now, I think the show is less controversial than it was in 2004, but just as important,” Broken Box member senior Meredith Soward said. “In 2004, the focus was much more on ‘tolerance’ of the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Queer community, but now we want to emphasize the message of open acceptance rather than mere tolerance.”
The show is split into three acts and consists of eight actors and actresses who portray more than 60 characters; Broken Box will be performing the show with 22 actors and dividing the entire show into two acts. Through the interviews, The Laramie Project exposes a variety of perspectives surrounding the event, including both the homophobic and tolerant sentiment that existed in Laramie at the time. More than 15 years after the incident, Wyoming has not adopted any hate crime legislation.
Broken Box will be performing the original play from March 5 to 7 in the Eagle Theater at 7 pm, while Mountain View High (MVHS) school’s theater company will perform the follow-up show, The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later, three weeks after at the MVHS theater.
“From an acting perspective, this show is an incredibly complex and exciting show to perform,” Meredith said. “It’s very different from most of our other shows, which have a specific storyline and fictional characters. [The Laramie Project] is kind of like a documentary-style play that progresses in ‘moments’ that each emphasize a specific point, rather than an action-driven plot…[Preparing for] this show has been an incredible growth experience for all of the actors.”
The Talon will be publishing features about the show throughout the next week; check back for show updates and exclusive web coverage at www.lahstalon.org.
NOTICE: The Laramie Project contains mature content and language, so it may not be appropriate for all audiences.