Friday 26 February 2010

The LGBT History Series (26) - The Laramie Project

'The Laramie Project' is a play by Moises Kaufman and first performed by the Tectonic Theater Company, about the reaction to and effect of the 1998 murder of Mathew Sheppard, a gay student from Laramie, Wyoming. The murder is widely believed to have been a homophobic hate-crime.

Research for the play included hundreds of interviews with inhabitants of the town, members of the the theatre companies' own diary entries, and news reports from papers and television.

The play has since been performed by schools and colleges, as well as professional theatre companies across America. I don't know of any performances in the UK or elsewhere, but comment if you do. The play is used as a GCSE English Literature text, and has also been used to teach about tolerance and prejudice in schools.

Author: Jeff Hitchcock,
Permission: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
Note: Image shows actors playing protestors from the Westboro Baptist Church

Famous actors who've appeared in stage performances include Jenna Ushkowitz (now in 'Glee'), Christina Ricci, Laura Linney, Peter Fonda, Camryn Manheim, Clea DuVall, and Frances Sternhagen.

In 2000, HBO commissioned Kaufman to write and direct the screenplay for the film, and it came out in 2002. Its well worth a watch, but have the tissues and the therapist handy.

'The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later' is a project is a companion piece, once again researched and performed by the Tectonic Theater Company, using interviews from many of the same people as a decade earlier, and was premiered on the 11th anniversary of Mathew Shepard's death, with an opening speech given by Glenn Close.