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The Laramie Project – Ten Years On

Posted by Carla Sammut

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On the 6th of October 1998 Matthew Sheppard was offered a ride home by two guys from a local bar in Laramie, Wyoming. Instead of going home Sheppard was taken just out of town to a Walmart car park where he was robbed, tied to a fence, beaten and left to die. He was found 18 hours later, in a coma, by a cyclist who mistook him for a scarecrow. Sheppard never regained consciousness and died in hospital six days later. He was 21 years old and was beaten to death because he was gay.

In the wake of this brutal hate crime the Tectonic Theatre Company went to Laramie and interviewed the townspeople. They created The Laramie Project, a play that weaves together verbatim dialogue from the people they interviewed, examining the aftermath and attitudes to the crime. On the 10th anniversary of Matthew’s death Tectonic returned to Laramie and repeated the process. Had things changed? What did the emotional landscape of Laramie look like a decade later? The result is a play that provides an illuminating and realistic slice of the population’s attitude and how rumour and time can create an entirely different narrative to suit popular belief.

Red Stitch staged Laramie – Ten Years Later in 2011 and was invited by The Arts Centre to re-construct it opening on International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO). The production is sparse with few props or staging. Light directs you from scene to character back to scene again creating a hushed, flowing tone. It’s a hokey analogy – the truth being illuminated – but it’s extremely effective. The large ensemble cast are all excellent, playing the many Laramie residents with ease and empathy.

Already knowing the outcome doesn’t take away from the tragedy. We keep telling our stories so we don’t forget, but more importantly we tell them to maintain a modicum of truth. Laramie – Ten Years Later raises pertinent questions about the power of denial, the potency rumours and the transient nature of that truth.

Laramie – Ten Years Later is on at the Fairfax Studio at the Arts Centre playing until the 26th of May.
Discount tickets are available through Halftix or directly through The Arts Centre.


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