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Guthrie joins national event for ‘The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later’

The murder of Matthew Shepard a decade ago shocked the nation and galvanized the GLBT-rights movements. The killing, in which a gay University of Wyoming student was attacked, robbed and then tied to a fence and left to die by two locals he’d met in a bar, has stayed in the public consciousness through “The Laramie Project,” Tectonic Theater Project’s documentary-style exploration of the event and the effect it had on the town.

To mark the 10th anniversary, the company returned to the city to see how the event has changed — or not changed — the community at large. That epilogue, “The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later,” will make its premiere Monday. More than 120 theaters across the United States will present simultaneous readings that will be joined by a video discussion of the lasting effects of the event.

Locally, the Guthrie Theater will present the epilogue, with Associate Director of Studio Programming Benjamin McGovern directing and featuring Mark Benninghofen, Michael Booth, Bob Davis, Melissa Hart, Charity Jones, Tracey Maloney, Kris L. Nelson and Michelle O’Neill.

“I’ve never directed it, but I have seen it,” McGovern says about the original work. “It’s an extraordinary piece of theater. There’s a real dramatic thrust to the piece, but it’s also about real people. The emotional impact that you feel with the piece is very real.”

For the epilogue, the show’s creators returned to Laramie and interviewed many of the same people who were included in the original show. They also talked to Shepard’s mother, Judy, and one of the killers, who is serving a life-sentence. What they found is a town that is “rewriting the history of the event,” McGovern says. “The town really struggled with being synonymous with such a horrible crime. One way to do that is to rewrite the event. People have taken what was clearly a hate crime and said that it was drugs.”

This piece “is a little more intellectual,” McGovern says. “The emotion is still there, but the answers are even more unclear.”

The post-show talkback will explore these issues as well, with a panel of creators, cast members and other contributors gathering at Lincoln Center for a discussion. Patrons at the theaters watching the broadcast can contribute questions via Twitter and other means.

The piece is being worked on almost up the broadcast, with the final pages arriving earlier this week. After that, McGovern and the cast will have a single day to put together the reading.

“We have just a phenomenal cast,” McGovern says, adding that having a script being worked on almost until the broadcast “gives a real immediacy to the event.”

“The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later” runs at 7 p.m. Monday on the McGuire Proscenium at the Guthrie Theater. Tickets are $15. They can be ordered at 612-377-2224 or online.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Frank Willis on 11/03/2009 - 12:57 pm.

    About the Laramie Project, people have the right to raise questions. Why did Matthew Shepard get in a car with straight guys in the middle of the night? (it’s amazing to me that no one has raised this question). Recently in a Newsweek interview, his mother , Judy Shepard, said that Matthew had a “dark side.” Did he seek out dangerous situations with heterosexual males? Since Matthew obviously had “gaydar,” he knew he was going out with straight men.
    An earlier episode in his life seems to show his penchant for seeking this kind of danger. In a March, 1999 interview with Vanity Fair, Judy Shepard discussed that while Matthew was on vacation in Morocco during his senior year in high school, a gang there raped him. Again, it seems that Matthew Shepard put himself in a perilous situation with straight males (I’ve been to Morocco many times and people don’t get dragged off the street and raped).
    Obviously, Shepard didn’t deserve to be murdered, but it is doubtful that he was the saintly martyr he is made out to be.

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