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The Daily Wildcat

 

    Community members aim for social change in ‘Laramie Project’

    On Oct. 12, Centennial Hall will open its doors to the public as a call to meet and deal with the issues of our time through the art of theater.

    “”The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later,”” is a play that reflects on the repercussions of the hate crime against Matthew Shepard and will have its international premiere on Monday evening. For one night, members of the UA community are encouraged to crowd into Centennial Hall to honor Matthew Shepard, the 21-year-old, gay student who was killed in Laramie, Wyo., on Oct. 12, 1998.

    “”The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later”” is the brainchild of the Tectonic Theatre Company in New York City, who also wrote and produced the original Laramie Project. UApresents immediately latched on to the idea when the Tectonic Theatre Company released a call for other theatres to partner with them. Several hundred theaters around the world also decided to jump on the bandwagon. However, unlike other theaters, UApresents required that “”The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later”” be kept free and open to the Tucson community.

    Yet they had another hurdle, trying to find someone to direct and cast a show. But, when it came down to finding someone who could help them achieve their goal they could only think of one department.

    “”Yes, we want to do it. We want to be on board,”” said Bobbi McKean, associate director for the School of Theatre Arts and the director of “”The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later.”” “”They were the ones who called us which was fabulous.””

    McKean said this is the first time the School of Theatre Arts has teamed with UApresents to put on a production. “”We love to collaborate with UApresents as often as we can,”” McKean said. “”But usually it is with bringing a guest speaker to our students. This is the first time we actually collaborated on a show.””

    As soon as the plans were solidified, McKean hit the ground running.

    “”It’s been a work in progress,”” McKean said. And she isn’t kidding. The stakes were high, with 10 cast members playing a multitude of roles and a revised script from the Tectonic Theatre Company that arrived only a week before the show, combined with the hope of bringing about a social transformation for all who come to see it.

    Tim Fitzsimmons, interdisciplinary studies senior and cast member of “”The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later,”” says he read the script and was instantly blown away.

    “”At first, I didn’t know anything about it, so I didn’t know how I felt,”” Fitzsimmons said of the play. “”But after reading it and knowing people’s attitudes about it, I truly care about the material.””

    That kind of reaction is exactly what McKean is hoping to inspire Monday night.

    “”It is about trying to keep the legacy of Matthew Shepard alive,”” she said. “”Because a lot of people, like new college students, were 10 when it happened and they might not know who he is.””

    “”The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later”” picks up where the original play left off. It gathers all of the events that has happened within the last ten years of Matthew Shepard’s death and poses the question: Where are we now?

    The Tectonic Theater Company aimed for a documentary-style play where key players are brought into question. McKean said that the two perpetrators of the crime, Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney have lengthy interviews. Also the mother, Judy Shepard plays a major role, something that wasn’t seen in the original play.

    “”(The Tectonic Theatre Company) made a conscious decision not to talk to Judy Shepard the first time,”” McKean said. But now, audience members get to see her reactions to the event surrounding her son.

    Fitzsimmons hopes people see the show and the issues it deals with in a new light. “”In this day and age they are many people skilled in a closed mindset. Hopefully this will raise awareness,”” he said.

    Indeed, the play has received such recognition that even the House of Representatives have chosen to honor the participants of “”The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later.””

    “”There is a lot more talk about this with the effect on legislation on so many levels,”” McKean said of gay rights. This makes the project ideal for raising awareness against the current political backdrop. “”It gives us an opportunity to reflect back on the 11 years since Matthew was killed and take stock in that.””

    Despite all eyes watching, ultimately the event is about bringing about a change to the society in which we live.

    “”This is about a community coming together to look at ourselves,”” McKean said. “”There is so much work to be done.””

    However, McKean also states that in the aftermath of the Matthew Shepard murder, the gay community knows they have an ally in Laramie, Wyo. That kind of transformation is what the university members of the “”The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later”” hope audience members take away with them after the performance on Monday night.

    “”By participating in this, you are participating not as an audience member but in a much larger community action,”” McKean said. “”I want people to take away their own personal thoughts and transformations and ask what they can do for the society.””

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