November 8, 2005 > The Laramie Project
The Laramie Project
by Heidi Leung
Seven years has passed since the brutal slaying of Matthew Shepard but thanks to the Laramie Project, his death has not been in vain. In 1998, Matthew Shepard was beaten, robbed, tied to a fence, and left to die. At first, he was mistaken for a scarecrow, but when someone finally realized his brutalized body was a real person, he was taken to a nearby hospital where he died from severe brain stem damage.
When the case went to court it brought the issues of homophobia and gay bashing to the forefront of public debate. It has since spawned hate crime legislation and various protests by both gay and anti-gay activists. The two defendants first testified that they had attacked him because he was gay. However, later they changed their stories stating that they had been on drugs and didn't mean to kill him. Regardless of the circumstances, the two men are serving life sentences in prison.
This highly publicized and unnecessary murder is the basis of the Laramie Project, which will debut on Nov. 4 at Ohlone College. The play, written by Moises Kaufman and directed by Mark Nelson, is based on over 200 interviews with people who lived in Laramie, Wyoming where the murder took place.
The play puts forth a very strong message, although it has lighthearted moments. The family who is presenting this play wants potential viewers to know that "there are quite a few moments of controversial issues, strong language and characters in the show (based on real people and events); some of these may offend some people or are too intense for children under 12. There is no physical violence portrayed, only monologues about the actual events." I strongly urge everyone to see it, even young children, as it will be beneficial for tolerance to be taught at a young age.
This story may appear to be irrelevant in a place as open as the Bay Area, however, let's not forget the unnecessary death of the Tri-City's very own Gwen Araujo who was beaten and strangled to death at a house party on Oct. 4, 2002 over issues similar to Matthew Shepard's. Mark Nelson, the director comments, "Can it happen in our own backyard? It has." As tragic as the play may sound, it does carry a message of hope.
For ticket information contact the box office at (510) 659-6031 or visit www.smithcenterpresents.com.
The Laramie Project
Friday - Saturday, November 10-12
Smith Center at Ohlone College
43600 Mission Blvd., Fremont