Shepard's death was the catalyst for the "The Laramie Project," a play developed and produced by the Tectonic Theatre Project. Written by Moises Kaufman, Leigh Fondakowski, Greg Pierotti and Andy Paris, the play was drawn from interviews with Laramie residents, news reports and journal entries. Audiences will revisit the Wyoming town when "The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later" premieres on Oct. 12, the date of Shepard's death.
The University of Houston's Wortham Theatre joins more than 100 theaters around the world that will host readings of this play. Presented by the UH School of Theatre & Dance, "The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later" will begin at 7 p.m., Oct. 12 in the Wortham Theatre. Admission is free.
This epilogue delves into the lasting impact this crime has had on the community of Laramie. It draws from new interviews with the residents of Laramie and Shepard's murderer, Aaron McKinney. Judy Shepard, Matthew's mother, also offered commentary for the play. She is now an activist and a driving force behind the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which supports diversity programs in education and helps youth organizations establish safe environments where young people can be themselves.
On the same day as the premiere, an online interactive community will be launched. Participants can upload media and blog about the play and their experiences in presenting it. A question and answer session also will be available via Twitter. All online discussions will be accessible at http://community.laramieproject.org/.
"The story of ‘Laramie' speaks to all of us," said Steven Wallace, director of the School of Theatre & Dance, who is directing the reading. "Laramie is in Wyoming, Iowa, New York, Texas and every state in the nation. A college campus, especially ours, is a place where different cultures, philosophies and beliefs intersect. It is a place of discourse, and a time and place for our students to learn and to formulate ideas. I cannot think of a better place to encourage dialogue about the diversity of our country and its people. To me, that is what this project is about.
In addition to UH, theaters across the country, in Canada, Great Britain, Spain, Hong Kong and Australia will present "The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later."
On Sept. 24, a resolution was passed by the U.S. Congress honoring those participating in "The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later."
"Resolved, That the House of Representatives congratulates the participants and patrons involved for continuing to engage in activities that raise awareness of hate crimes in our society," the resolution stated.
The first "Laramie Project" premiered in 2000, in Denver. Two years later, HBO presented the film adaptation, directed by Kaufman. The play has often been used in schools to teach tolerance and explain prejudice. It has been one of the most performed plays in America over the past decade.
The UH School of Theatre & Dance offers bachelor's and master's degrees in theater, and teacher certifications in dance. Its graduate program consists of a Master of Arts in theater and Master of Fine Arts in theater, with specializations in acting, directing and design. Each fall and spring, the school produces five plays, performed in the Wortham Theatre and the Jose Quintero Theatre; two dance concerts; four graduate directing projects; two Theatre for Young Audiences plays; and the Houston Shakespeare Festival each summer. The school has benefitted from notable star faculty such as Lanford Wilson, Sir Peter Hall and Jose Quintero. Among its faculty are Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee, Tony Award-winning playwright Mark Medoff, Tony Award-winning producer Stuart Ostrow and Broadway dramaturg Mark Bly. For details on UH's School of Theatre & Dance, visit www.theatredance.uh.edu.