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The Laramie Project

   

The Laramie Project

By Moisés Kaufman and Members of the Tectonic Theater Project

Directed by Robert Chapel

Graphic Design by Mktfolly Designs; photo by Tim Chestnut, courtesy SpotCo

November 17 - 20, 2005

Mendelssohn Theatre

 

UM School of Music

Department of Theatre & Drama

 

Overview    Press Release    Program    Photos

 

Overview

In October 1998, university student Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten, tied to a fence and left to die outside the town of Laramie, Wyoming, because he was gay. His death cast the eyes of the world on this small western town. The Laramie Project emerged from a series of interviews with residents, creating a moving theatrical experience by portraying  the varied reactions of the townspeople to this event and subsequent trials. From the idealized perceptions of small town life in the open West, to the deflating reality of a crime that caused an international outcry, The Laramie Project is a deeply moving depiction of a town forced to face its loss of innocence.

The writers conducted over 200 interviews and spent over a year and a half developing the play. The collage of stories in The Laramie Project is stunningly effective in its efforts to dramatize various issues surrounding the murder and the town’s vision of itself. As homosexuality continues to roil the American pysche, perhaps Laramie’s struggle is emblematic of America’s national drama. Is America a land of individuals who live and let live, or are certain lifestyles beyond a community’s moral code?

 

Press Release

UM DEPARTMENT OF THEATRE AND DRAMA PRESENTS THE LARAMIE PROJECT,

A DEEPLY MOVING TALE OF A TOWN ROCKED BY A HATE CRIME

ANN ARBOR — The UM Department of Theatre and Drama presents The Laramie Project by Moisés Kaufman and the Members of Tectonic Theater Project. An evocative depiction of a town forced to face its loss of innocence, The Laramie Project plays November 17 at 7:30 PM, November 18 & 19 at 8 PM, and November 20 at 2 PM at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre in Ann Arbor. UM graduate Robert Chapel, professor and recent chair of the Department of Drama at the University of Virginia, guest directs.

In October 1998, a young university student, Matthew Shepard, was brutally beaten, tied to a fence and left to die outside the town of Laramie, Wyoming, because he was gay. His death became a national symbol of intolerance and cast the eyes of the world on the small western town. According to playwright Moisés Kaufman, “There are moments in history when an event occurs, and the event is of such power that it operates as a lightening rod. It brings to the surface all the ideas, the beliefs, and the philosophies that are permeating people’s lives. My idea was that if we went to Laramie and we interviewed the people of the town, we might be able to create a document not only about how Laramie was feeling, but about how the whole country was feeling and thinking and talking — not only about homosexuality, but also about class and education and violence.”

Kaufman (Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde) and five members of the Tectonic Theater Project traveled to Laramie over the course of two years — from the early weeks following the tragedy through the trials of Shepard’s killers — to conduct over 200 interviews with townspeople. From those interviews, they culled The Laramie Project. “Over the course of time people changed,” stated writer Leah Fondakowski. “One of the greatest achievements of the piece was following the journey of various individuals and showing the magnitude of their change.”

The play focuses on the town’s reactions to the crime, not on the murder of Matthew Shepard itself. “In this way,” states director Robert Chapel, “the play could be about any kind of hate crime — religious, racial — it’s not limited to homosexuality. The fact that Shepard was gay adds another layer to the complexity of the work. We’ve set it on a almost bare stage to emphasize the theatricality of the piece as well as contribute to the notion that this could happen anywhere, not just in the small town of Laramie.”

Joining Chapel on the artistic team is Gary Decker, assistant professor in the Department of Theatre and Drama, as scenic designer. UM graduate Meghan O’Malley Powell serves as costume designer. Her work at UM as a student included designs for Good News! and La Perichole. Kendall Smith, resident designer for Michigan Opera Theatre, joins as the lighting designer. Henry Reynolds, assistant professor in the Department of Theatre and Drama, whose work was last heard in The Rover serves as sound designer.

Reverend Fred Phelps, a well-known homophobe from Kansas who has consistently picketed productions of The Laramie Project throughout the country and who is featured in the play, has announced his intention to picket the performance on Saturday, November 19. An opportunity for dialogue is planned following that performance to discuss the play and Phelps and is organized by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Office at the University of Michigan.

 

Program

Click here to see a copy of the program for The Laramie Project.

 

Photos

the laramie project

the laramie project
Jeff Blim
Eric Kahn Gale
The Laramie project
the laramie project
Ali Kresch
Sari Goldberg
the laramie project
the laramie project
Kyla Embry
Edmund Alyn Jones
the laramie project
the laramie project
Kyla Embry
James Wolk
the laramie project
the laramie project
Eric James Schinzer
Kimberly Harberg
Erin Farrell
the laramie project
Erin Farrell
Patrick Chu
Director Robert Chapel
the laramie project
Director Robert Chapel
Kirsten Mara Benjamin
the laramie project
the laramie project
Karenanna Creps
Kimberly Harberg and Andy Paris
the laramie project
the laramie project
Edmund Alyn Jones
Adam H. Caplan
the laramie project

the laramie project

Angels
Members of the Tectonic Theater Project

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Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower

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