Laramie, 10 Years Later
Tonight Steve and I went to see The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later, An Epilogue. The reading was produced by Arena Stage in DC, but it premiered simultaneously in all 50 states, Canada, Great Britain, Spain, Hong Kong and Australia.
Today was the 11 year anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death.
I’ve dramaturged The Laramie Project twice–in undergrad in 2002 & in grad school in 2005. I sifted through pictures of Laramie and of Matthew Shepard. Lost myself for hours in researching the townspeople who became characters in the play. I read dozens of interviews and feature articles about his murder. I’ve seen the play probably twenty-five times between rehearsals and shows, but it never stops breaking my heart. It’s an extremely powerful piece of theatre and a worthwhile conversation-starter.
The epilogue includes moving interviews with Judy Shepard–and with
Matthew’s killers, Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney, who have two very different views of remorse for their crime. It follows the Wyoming legislature’s unsuccessful attempt to pass a "defense of marriage" bill–and the University of Wyoming’s struggle to pass same-sex partner benefits. It raises questions about what has changed in Laramie and across the nation in the last 10 years–and what hasn’t. If you’re curious, here are some snippets of interviews with a few inhabitants of Laramie.
At one point, the mayor of Laramie says, "Whether we have changed attitudes may be one thing, but we have certainly changed what is acceptable to express and to say."
In a New York Times article, Iain-Peter Duggan, a junior at the University of Wyoming who is gay, said, "If you walk around campus holding hands with another guy, you have to know that people are going to holler and yell at you. You just have to be smart." In the new Epilogue, resident Jonas Slonaker talks about how he and his partner have become adept at finding "safe spots" in their community.
The federal hate crimes act proposed to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability, still has not passed.
Same-sex marriage is only legal in 4 states and recognized by 4 more.
That is not enough.
I really believe we can do better.