The Georgia College Theatre Department in collaboration with the Georgia College Office of Equity and Diversity will present “The Laramie Project” Oct. 16-18.
The play marks the 15th anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s brutal murder in Wyoming, a tragedy that led to expanded federal hate crime legislation.
Shepard, an openly gay student at the University of Wyoming, was left tied to a fence post for 18 hours after his killers severely beat him. He was in a coma for six days until he lost his life on Oct. 12, 1998.
“The Laramie Project” is a play by Moisés Kaufman and members of the New York-based Tectonic Theater Project. The group went to Laramie three weeks after Shepard’s murder and interviewed hundreds of residents about their experience with Shepard, his murder, his murderers and life in Laramie.
More than 60 characters, ranging from Shepard’s friends to Tectonic Theatre members, are portrayed by eight cast members.
Leigh Fondakowski, one of “The Laramie Project” playwrights, will attend Georgia College’s performance on Oct. 17. She will also conduct a talkback after the show.
“We never dreamed in a million years that other people would perform ‘The Laramie Project,’” said Fondakowski. “It's been a complete shock that other people have done the play, and that people feel as passionately as they do about it.”
Director Eric Griffis chose this play not only because he feels it’s important for students to know Shepard’s story, but also because he can relate to Shepard.
“In 1998, I was a 19-year-old college sophomore in Magnolia, Ark., a town not unlike Milledgeville or Laramie,” said Griffis. “It could’ve been me or one of my friends. Matthew’s murder struck a chord in me as I saw how much hatred there was in the world.”
Shepard’s murder was condemned as a hate crime and brought attention to the lack of hate crime laws throughout the United States, especially Wyoming. The murder sparked a conversation in the United States about many issues facing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) Americans and led to more monumental changes in same-sex rights.
The Matthew Shepard & James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2009. Byrd was an African-American man who was chained to a truck and dragged to his death in Texas in 1998.
The Laramie Project is intended for mature audiences and will be performed at the Campus Black Box Theatre from Oct. 16-18 at 8 p.m. Admission is $5. Tickets can be purchased at www.gcsutickets.com or by calling 478-445-4226.