More than 10 years ago, the story of Matthew Shepard, a man killed in a small Wyoming town for being gay, captivated the country. On Monday, the story got a new chapter.
“The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later,” was performed Monday at the Lincoln Theatre and simultaneously at more than 100 theatres worldwide. The piece was performed as a follow-up, or epilogue, to a play titled “The Laramie Project” that chronicles Shepard’s murder in 1998.
Similar to the design of the original play, the epilogue is a staged reading composed of interviews of Laramie residents – both those who knew Shepard and those who were indirectly affected by his murder. Moisés Kaufman, the writer of both the play and the epilogue, addressed the audience during an internet broadcast before the show, saying that the epilogue aims to examine the long-term affects of Shepard’s murder on Laramie, and to “measure change in the community.”
The epilogue, which takes place in present-day Laramie, depicts a town still struggling to heal more than a decade later. One character admits it was difficult for people to reflect and say, “yeah, we screwed up.” Senior Nathan Wolfson, who went to the show, said new interviews with Shepard’s killers, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, revealed two very different opinions about the murder.
“We saw this incredible self-awareness in Henderson; a man who realized the error of his ways and a man filled with remorse,” he said in an interview. “[McKinney], the one who actually physically beat Matt into submission and took his life, felt absolutely no remorse for his actions.”
The play and its epilogue have been an agent for progress, according to Judy Shepard, Matthew Shepard’s mother, who also spoke during the live broadcast. Both she and the writers encouraged audience members nationwide to tweet, blog and talk about the performance. An open dialogue about the two shows, they said, would prompt change in other communities, and lead to legislation protecting gay and lesbian rights.
Sophomore Christine Alexander, who is performing in GW’s production of the original “The Laramie Project” later this month, said the epilogue was a major discussion topic in rehearsals.
“I think the show is a necessary addition to ‘The Laramie Project,’ which examined the town so close to the incident,” she said in an e-mail. “Seeing Laramie presently, through the eyes of its residents, will bring closure to the story of the town.”
Both Wolfson and freshman Amanda Newman, who are also performing in GW’s version, said the epilogue created a sense of community among audience members.
“It was exciting knowing I was watching the same show with someone from the other side of the world,” Newman said.