The Laramie Project addresses a horrific hate crime that took place in October of 1998 in the small town of Laramie, Wyoming. A young man by the name of Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten, tortured and then tied to a fence and left to die. He hung on the fence for more than 12 hours until a man passing by on a bicycle realized the scarecrow hanging there was a human being. He was beaten, and ultimately murdered, for the simple fact that he was gay.
Five weeks after this appalling tragedy, Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project traveled to Laramie and spent the next year interviewing more than 200 people. They compiled those interviews into a poignant and affecting piece called The Laramie Project which chronicles life in the town in the year after the murder.
Since then, The Laramie Project has been seen by more than 30 million people around the country. It is performed by theater companies, schools and faith-based organizations among others. It has become a tool to promote the discussion of how hate still affects our small communities and world as a whole. With Theatre Arlington’s production opening on the heels of the recent anti-bullying seminar at the University of Texas at Arlington, Executive Producer Todd Hart is hoping the show will resonate within Arlington and the surrounding communities.
“It’s not about being gay,” says Hart. “It’s about anyone who has ever experienced hate simply for being different – that encompasses a lot of people. This show has the potential to initiate change. It has the potential to make an impact in people’s lives. Theater is not supposed to simply entertain. It is supposed to challenge us to think differently, even if it makes us uncomfortable, and open our minds to other points of view.”
LaramieProject.org echoes Mr. Hart’s sentiments. When asked for a response to anyone who challenges the production of The Laramie Project the following answer is given:
“It is okay for theater to be controversial. The Laramie Project’s goal is to promote thoughtful discussion and give audiences the opportunity to hear from a wide variety of Laramie residents and those most associated with the murder of Matthew Shepard. Yes, there have been protests, but they only demonstrate the need for more education and conversation about the issues that are explored in The Laramie Project.”
The Laramie Project runs May 18 – June 3, 2012, with performances on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $19 with discounts available for students, seniors and groups of ten or more. Following the show Friday, May 18, is an opening night reception catered by Black Finn American Saloon where patrons can mingle with the cast and crew. Following the performance Sunday, May 20, will be a talk-back featuring a panel of professionals including Susan Burk of The Matthew Shepard Foundation and Reverend Carol West of Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth. The audience is invited to stay and join in the discussion along with the cast and crew.
Theatre Arlington is located at 305 W. Main Street in Arlington, TX. Tickets may be purchased over the phone by calling 817.275.7661 or online at www.theatrearlington.org.