The brutal 1998 murder of college student Matthew Shepard just outside Laramie, Wyo., had repercussions far beyond the tragic loss of one young man; it became a clarion call for action to recognize and stop hate crimes against LGBT people across the country.
The impact of Shepard's murder was so significant due in no small part to The Laramie Project, a play written by members of the Tectonic Theater Project. A month after the 22-year-old was killed, writers and actors from the group traveled to Wyoming to interview residents of the community. What emerged was a powerful, multivoiced piece of theater that throws an unforgiving light on the insidiousness of prejudice. It's become one of the most frequently produced plays in America.
Ten years later, the ensemble decided to head back to Laramie to see how the hate crime, as well as the subsequent attention, has affected the town a decade on. Like any place that lends its name to historic and disturbing events (Watts, Birmingham), Laramie is a community that is still coping with how it is viewed and struggling with what it wants to become.
The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later serves as a rare epilogue to a piece of theater. Written by Stephen Belber, Leigh Fondakowski, Moisés Kaufman, Greg Pierotti and Andy Paris (all members of Tectonic), the play will debut at New York's Lincoln Center on Monday, Oct. 12, as well as simultaneously at more than 100 other theaters across America and in the U.K., Spain, Hong Kong and Australia.
The Albuquerque performance (which will be the only full performance—the rest are staged readings) is put on by Working Classroom and will serve as a benefit for both WC and Equality New Mexico. Working Classroom Executive Director Nan Elsasser says she contacted Moisés Kaufman (who is also on the board of WC) as soon as she heard of the project, wanting in on the chance to participate. The decision to stage a full production of The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later came out of what Elsasser says was a belief that in order “to honor the work and significance of it, we wanted to go all out."
Tickets for the opening-night gala are $100. There will be a pre-show reception on Monday, Oct. 12, at Standard Diner (320 Central SE) from 5 to 7 p.m. The performance begins at 8 p.m. at the South Broadway Cultural Center (1025 Broadway SE) and will be followed by another reception with the cast.
You can catch two other performances on Friday, Oct. 16, and Saturday, Oct. 17, at 8 p.m. Tickets for those are $15, $10 students and seniors. For more, go to workingclassroom.org.