The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later (An Epilogue) October 12, 2009

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Last night I attended an event that was held in 100 theatres across the United States in a simultaneous reading of the play The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later (An Epilogue) conceived by Moises Kaufman and The Tectonic Theatre Project. It was held at Florida Stage, an intimate community theatre located on Route AIA a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean in Manalapan, Florida. Florida Stage is, “The nation’s largest professional theatre dedicated to producing exclusively new and emerging American plays”.

The play is about the brutal killing of Matthew Shepard , a young gay student who was tied on a fence and left to die in the town of Laramie, Wyoming. “The murder is widely considered to be a hate crime motivated by homophobia” as described in an online study guide that can be found on The Laramie Project.org website.

The original Tectonic Theatre Project members interviewed hundreds of Laramie residents to find out how the death of Matthew Shepard impacted their lives over a ten year period. Changes in community composition, subsequent removal of the fence located on the property where Matthew Shepard died and media coverage that redefined the crime as an attempted robbery rather than as a hate crime contributed to the transformation of Laramie resident attitudes and feelings about the killing of Matthew Shepard.

Audience members at Florida Stage were encouraged to speak about their experiences and reactions to the play in a post play discussion led by Tony Plakas CEO of Compass, the Gay and Lesbian Center of the Palm Beaches and Rand Hoch , founder of The Human Rights Council of Palm Beach County, Florida. In a parallel process audience members considered the impact of hate crimes on their communities.

I attended the reading with a gay male friend who was the victim of a hate crime in Florida where he survived being beaten by a homophobe. He reported the crime. In the post play discussion he urged victims to report hate crimes. Many go unreported because the victim is afraid to tell authorities that he/she is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender for fear of further victimization and traumatization. Victims may be ‘closeted’ . The report could ‘out’ them to homophobic family members and friends to further compound the trauma.

This week a young man lies in a coma in Queens, N.Y He is the victim of a homophobic hate crime.

Judy Shepard, Matthew Shepard’s mother worked tirelessly for the passage of The Matthew Shepard Act, hate crime legislation. The bill has been introduced to members of Congress this year and will likely pass as recently affirmed by President Obama in a speech delivered to the national gay rights advocacy organization HRC, Human Rights Campaign at the kick off dinner, event held in conjunction with the National Equality March on Washington.

Florida Stage
262 South Ocean Blvd
Manalapan, Florida 33462

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