THE LARAMIE PROJECT
by Moisés Kaufman and the members of Tectonic Theater Project
THE LARAMIE PROJECT: TEN YEARS LATER
by Moisés Kaufman, Leigh Fondakowski, Greg Pierotti, Andy Paris, and Stephen Belber
November 17, 19
Thursday at 7pm
Saturday at 1pm and 7pm
Following the brutal beating and tragic death of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, the New York City-based Tectonic Theatre Project (TTP) traveled to Laramie to conduct interviews with the people most directly affected by the event. More than 200 interviews were edited into the script of, "The Laramie Project." In 2008 the TTP returned to find out what, if anything, had changed. The, "Ten Years After" epilogue is the product of that research. Among the topics the play addresses are how a community reacts to tragedy, the importance of telling stories like Matthew’s, and whether discrimination and ultimately, homophobia, were the driving forces behind Matthew being targeted and killed.
The cast of 46 student actors portray more than 90 characters in a series of short scenes in two acts. Pascack Valley High School Theatre directors/producers Merielle Lupfer and Tom Lupfer advise that this is the first high school production in the country to combine the original "The Laramie Project," with the epilogue, "TLP: 10 Years Later." Tom Lupfer said, "The fascinating thing about these plays is that they are about much more than an incident. They are about a community, and how it responds to a crime, and, in, ‘10 Years Later,’ how that community grapples with its history. The story told in these plays is not just about Laramie or 1998."
Following the Saturday matinee, a talkback with Romaine Patterson will be held. Patterson was a close friend of Matthew and was interviewed for both the original play and the epilogue. She is portrayed in this production by senior Kelsey McGrail. Audience members are encouraged to stay and join the cast and creative team for this special program. Romaine travels around the country speaking about the issues addressed in "The Laramie Project" and social justice. In 1999, at the age of 21, she founded Angel Action, an organization for peaceful demonstration. The name derives from her own peaceful demonstration as the men accused of the murder went to trial. When she learned that Fred Phelps, a Baptist minister who, along with his followers, picketed Matthew’s funeral, carrying signs that read "Matt burns in hell," planned to continue their condemnation of Matthew outside the courthouse, she and her friends, wearing seven-foot angel wings, surrounded Phelps and his supporters, silencing them. She has been a spokesperson for acceptance and nonviolence around the world ever since.
The significance of Matthew Shepard’s murder, indelibly preserved in both plays, has been an opportunity for the students involved in the production to closely examine the central themes of tolerance, and hope in the face of hate. "These are documentary-style plays. Working on a true story has been significant for the actors. They’ve contacted their real-life counterparts and worked hard to create the fabric of this town and capture the essence of these people," Merielle Lupfer said. The actors are keeping journals, as did the Tectonic Theatre Project members, who, with Moises Kaufman, wrote, "The Laramie Project." The epilogue play was written by Kaufman and Leigh Fondakowski, Greg Pierotti, Andy Paris and Stephen Belber.
"The story of these plays needs to be told, and we’re proud to share this important work with our community," Tom Lupfer said.
Judy Shepard, Matthew’s mother, addresses those who present "The Laramie Project," at matthewsplace.com. "This play is not about being gay. It is about being hurt for being different, whatever that difference might be. I want to thank you for the courage to mount a production that raises so many emotional and personal issues." She writes that "The Laramie Project invokes the kind of emotion and passion it takes to begin the process of erasing hate."
Montclair State University Theatre Night Awards
Outstanding Overall Production of a Drama
Outstanding Overall Production of a High School Play
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble Cast
Outstanding Achievement in Stage Direction - Tom & Merielle Lupfer
Outstanding Lighting Design - Luke Krauss & Curtis Shields
Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role - Scott Crepea
Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role - Kelsey McGrail
Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role - Carlie Cattelona
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