Fourteen years ago, the innocence of the quiet college town Laramie, Wyoming, was shattered when Matthew Shepard, a gay student from the University of Wyoming, was brutally murdered. The Maltz Jupiter Theatre and the Youth Artists’ Chair will bring a remembrance of Shepard with the award-winning Moisés Kaufman and Tectonic Theater Project play The Laramie Project on September 8.
|Student cast members in The Laramie Project at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre include, from left: Thomas Spencer, Frances Weissler, Michelle Shannon, Matthew Paszkiet and Caiti Marlowe. Photo by Tim Pereira.|
Shepard’s murder, which was denounced as a hate crime, brought to light the stark lack of hate crime laws throughout the country. Composed of interviews with Laramie townspeople, news reports and speeches following the crime, The Laramie Project takes the real reaction from the time and brings it to stage with eight actors playing more than 60 characters in three acts.
What makes this production of The Laramie Project particularly striking is that, as part of the Maltz’s Conservatory Youth Artists’ Chair program, the play is entirely produced by local high school students. Eighteen students in the summer theater program worked hand-in-hand with their professional counterparts at the Maltz in set and prop design, costume creation, directing and acting. Ranging from 13-18 years old, most if not all of the students had little to no memory of the tragic events that took place in 1998. Yet they are not removed from the effects bullying has on the community, as Palm Beach County’s school district leads the state in bullying incidents (according to state data, three in every 10 incidents reported in Florida happens in Palm Beach County—1,833 cases in 2010-11 alone).
The Laramie Project not only is a remembrance of Matthew Shepard but also acts as a way to teach children and adults about prejudice and tolerance by tackling the issues of bullying and hate crimes head on. The eight students on stage, each taking on roles of multiple characters, will help bring to life the heartfelt reaction of the aftermath of Shepard’s death while spurring the conversation of how much more is needed to end intolerance.
- The Laramie Project will take the stage for one night only, 8 p.m. on September 8. Tickets cost $20 for adults, $15 for students. To purchase, visit jupitertheatre.org.