tagged w/ The Laramie Project
"The Laramie Project — one of the most-performed plays of the last decade — is based on the true story of Matthew Shepard, the young man who, in October 1998, was savagely beaten and left to die in Laramie, Wyo. Almost instantly, Shepard's name became a kind of grim rallying cry for those drawing attention to hate crimes committed against gays.
Now there's an epilogue to The Laramie Project, and tonight more than a hundred theaters around the country will perform readings of the new play. Together with the first one, it constitutes a powerful version of Matthew Shepard's story.
But it's not the only version — and that's a big part of why the epilogue exists.
Matthew Shepard's savage killing was used to strengthen the argument for hate-crimes legislation. But meanwhile, another version of his story was gathering steam.
Six years after the crime, the ABC newsmagazine 20/20 set out to debunk the idea that Shepard was murdered because he was gay. Like The Laramie Project, the one-hour episode included interviews with Shepard's friends, as well as investigators assigned to the case. ABC's Elizabeth Vargas interviewed Shepard's killers, Aaron McKinney and Russ Henderson, both serving life sentences.
Shepard, 20/20 reported, may have used methamphetamine. The report said that McKinney had been a dealer. "Meth is what made the world go around in Laramie," a friend of McKinney's and a former dealer told Vargas.
20/20 also reported that McKinney and Henderson had been on a meth binge in the days before meeting Shepard. And prosecutor Cal Rerucha told 20/20 that "the methamphetamine just fueled this point where there was no control. So, it was a horrible, horrible, horrible murder. But it was a murder that was driven by drugs."
Playwright Moises Kaufman believes the 20/20 story was "terrible journalism" that "changed the nature of the dialogue." So one of his goals with the new Laramie Project epilogue was to debunk the 20/20 story.
Kaufman and his Tectonic colleagues went back to Laramie last year, re-interviewing many of the people they'd met a decade ago — as well as talking to some new sources.
"One of the things we do in the play," says Kaufman, "is we go back and ask investigators ... and we go back over trial transcripts, and we prove that it was a hate crime."
The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later includes the comments of Rob Debree from the Albany County Sheriff's Office in Laramie.
"We've proven that there were no drugs on board with McKinney and Henderson — just none," Debree declares. And what about the claim that Shepard's murder was a robbery and drug deal gone bad? "That's some kind of massive denial," one openly gay Laramie resident tells Tectonic Theater.
Laramie police commander Dave O'Malley, who also appears in the 20/20 episode, says: "It angered me more than anything the things [ABC] didn't say — the things they left out."""The Laramie Project — one of the most-performed plays of the last decade... more
"The creators of “The Laramie Project,” the acclaimed play about the 1998 murder of a 21-year-old gay man, Matthew Shepard, are finishing work on an 80-minute epilogue to the original work that will be given its debut simultaneously at dozens of theaters across the United States on Oct. 12, the 11th anniversary of Mr. Shepard’s death.
Moisés Kaufman, the playwright and director who, with his Tectonic Theater Project company, wrote and produced the first “Laramie Project,” said the epilogue would explore the impact of the Shepard killing on the residents of Laramie, Wyo., where it occurred. The dialogue will be drawn from interviews with dozens of people there, some of whom were involved in the crime, including Aaron McKinney, who was convicted of murdering Mr. Shepard and who gave an interview to the Tectonic artists.
Tectonic’s goal is to recruit 100 regional theaters, universities and other arts organizations to hold staged readings of the work, which is called “The Laramie Project — 10 Years Later.” More than 40 theaters have committed to the readings, including Arena Stage in Washington, Seattle Repertory Theater, Berkeley Repertory Theater and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles. The Tectonic company will hold its performance in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center.
“We’re also taking advantage of contemporary technology so that at the New York performance we’ll be connected to the other productions across the nation via the Internet,” Mr. Kaufman said. “We’re giving each production a video recorder so that they can document the event, and we’ll be answering questions live from across the country,” after the performances on Oct. 12, a Monday.
Mr. Kaufman and his epilogue co-writers — Stephen Belber, Leigh Fondakowski, Andy Paris and Greg Pierotti — returned to Laramie last fall to reinterview several townspeople who originally gave accounts to Tectonic in 1998 about Mr. Shepard, Mr. McKinney and the events preceding and following the murder. Those accounts were threaded together verbatim to create “The Laramie Project,” which has had several thousand productions since it opened Off Broadway in 2000.
In writing the new work Mr. Kaufman and his colleagues said they would reflect the range of views currently held by Laramie residents and others about whether Mr. Shepard’s murder was a hate crime by two homophobic men (Mr. McKinney and his accomplice, Russell Henderson) or the result of a botched attempt by the two men to rob Mr. Shepard.
Mr. Kaufman declined to reveal details of the interview with Mr. McKinney, who, like Mr. Henderson, is now serving two consecutive life sentences. The two men lured Mr. Shepard from a Laramie bar on the night of Oct. 6, 1998; Mr. Shepard was ultimately tied to a fence, pistol-whipped and left to die.
“As always, what we found defied expectations,” Mr. Kaufman said. “It’s a fallacy to try to define Laramie the way one would describe an individual. There are 27,000 people in Laramie. There are at least 27,000 Laramies.”
“But one of the things that was very clear from the start is the question of how does one measure change,” he continued. “Is it in the number of public monuments that have been erected? Is it in the number of laws that have been passed? Is it in the number of people whose views have been changed?”""The creators of “The Laramie Project,” the acclaimed play about the... more
"AT the core of Beethoven’s “Diabelli” Variations, an esoteric and astonishing piano piece lasting some 50 minutes, is one of the intriguing mysteries of music history. Why did Beethoven, during the difficult last decade of his life, when he was deaf, chronically ill and often in financial straits, become nearly obsessed with writing an extensive and complex set of variations on a dumpy little waltz, a theme he had first dismissed as a “cobbler’s patch”?
That question drives “33 Variations,” the latest play by Moisés Kaufman, which opens on Monday at the Eugene O’Neill Theater. The production is directed by Mr. Kaufman, best known for “The Laramie Project.” Jane Fonda, in her first performance on a Broadway stage in 46 years, plays Dr. Katherine Brandt, an American musicologist who becomes as obsessed with solving the mystery of the “Diabelli” Variations as Beethoven was with composing the piece.
Whatever one’s take on “33 Variations” as a theater piece, it is an innovative and engrossing exercise in music appreciation. The pianist Diane Walsh plays extended excerpts from the “Diabelli” Variations, elegantly, in full view of the audience. In a way Ms. Walsh is a character in the play. I don’t think Ms. Fonda would object to my saying that Beethoven’s music is the star.""AT the core of Beethoven’s “Diabelli” Variations, an esoteric... more
"Even having a major Hollywood name in a Broadway play does not guarantee that investors will rush to put money into it in these recessionary days, theater producers are learning.
Case in point: Jane Fonda’s star turn in “33 Variations,” the new play written and directed by Moisés Kaufman now in previews at the Eugene O’Neill Theater and opening on March 9.
As recently as late last week the lead producer, David Binder, said in an interview that he was planning to add another producer because Mr. Kaufman’s Tectonic Theater Project had not been able to raise its share of the budget, which is in the $2.5 million range.
“It’s a very, very difficult economy, so I picked up some of Tectonic’s share of the budget,” Mr. Binder said. “I want Moisés able to focus on rehearsals, not on raising money.”
In the last several days, however, Mr. Kaufman was able to turn to Tectonic’s board, staff and other supporters to recruit investors and make up the financial gap Mr. Binder was working to cover, Mr. Kaufman said on Wednesday. (Neither man would say how much of a gap existed.)""Even having a major Hollywood name in a Broadway play does not guarantee that... more
This story examines my hometown's reaction to its high school production of The Laramie Project. The play about a Wyoming town's reaction to the 1998 hate murder of Matthew Shepard has made the topic of intolerance one of public debate and the controversy surrounding this local production has caused heated discussion throughout the community of West Des Moines. The students of Valley High School involved in the play have found themselves at the center of this debate and many have realized the power they have to spread positive change.This story examines my hometown's reaction to its high school production of The... more
6 years ago