(Beaver Dam) The fall main stage production at the Beaver Dam Area Community Theatre asks the audience to contemplate tough questions with no easy answers. The Laramie Project tells the story of Matthew Shepherd, a 21-year-old University of Wyoming student who was kidnapped, severely beaten, and left tied to a fence in the middle of a prairie outside Laramie, Wyoming in October of 1998. Shepherd died six days later.
Director Rich Zeman says it became apparent this was, what we would call now, a hate crime because Shepherd was gay.
“How do we confront these things as a society, as a community,” Zeman posits, “If we don’t put ourselves in a position of listening and thinking.”
A group called the Tectonic Theater Project made a half-dozen trips to Laramie over the course of 18 months, in the aftermath of the beating and during the subsequent trial which led to the conviction of two men. They conducted more than 200 interviews. Some of those interviewed were directly connected to the case, while others were citizens of Laramie. All of the dialogue in the play is taken and patched together from those actual statements. Zeman says some of that dialogue is “really hard to hear.” He says the production is meant to challenge the audience.
“This is not a story about gay, or straight, or religion, or community,” Zeman says, “This is a story about hating…or not.”
He notes that the play is based on actual events in Laramie, Wyoming but it could easily be Beaver Dam, Wisconsin “in the blink of an eye.”
“Then who would you be in the story,” Zeman asks, “what would you say, how would you react?”
The Laramie Project opens Friday night (October 18) with the first of nine performances running through October 27.
More information is at: www.bdact.org
Listen to our interview with the cast of The Laramie Project on WBEV’s Community Comment here:
Standing left to right is Ryan Klug, Chris Connolly, Trevor Kastein and Rich Zeman
Seated is Carla Woebbeking, Trina Justman Reichert, Tina Swain and Laurel Goetsch