The Titan Players at International School (IS) in Bellevue, are staging The Laramie Project from March 30 – April 1, 2012 in the school’s Performing Arts Center (IPAC). This sparse and emotional docudrama, written by Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project in New York, chronicles disparate community member perceptions and reactions to the October 1998 hate crime murder of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming.
The production will be performed in three acts, each comprised of short vignettes. A cast of 17 teens plays over 60 townspersons ranging from medical, legal and religious professionals to friends, family and acquaintances, to the perpetrators themselves.
“I wanted to stage The Laramie Project to raise awareness of how destructive the judgment of another human being can be”, says Karen Gath McClain, Drama Director at IS.
“I would like it to inspire acceptance of all humanity in spite of personal beliefs. Being the parent of an autistic child. I have watched as my son was bullied throughout his school life. If this show enlightens one person to be more tolerant of people who are different from them, I will have done my job. ”
“I hope our school community and audience at large will be both moved to critical thinking and reflection by the show,” adds Jennifer Rose, Principal at IS, which is in the midst of celebrating its 20th anniversary.
“Our school was founded with the express intention of fostering a strong community of learners based upon the values of mutual respect, sincere compassion and shared responsibility. We strengthen our sense of community by showcasing plays that require intellectual and emotional engagement in serious issues, such as The Laramie Project, and continuing to work on developing understanding and acceptance in our community.”
On October 6, a gay college student named Matthew Shepard met two men at the Fireside Bar in Laramie, Wyoming. Eighteen hours later, a cyclist found Shepard unconscious, brutally beaten, tied up and left for dead on a fence off a rural road. Matthew Shepard never regained consciousness, and died five days later. Two Laramie residents, Russell Henderson, (aged 20), and Aaron McKinney, (aged 21), were apprehended for the crime, which became front-page news around the country. Henderson and McKinney were both convicted of felony murder and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences.
Moises Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project arrived in Laramie from New York City to interview the residents of the town shortly after Matthew Shepard’s death and returned for more interviews six times over a period of 18 months. Based on more than 200 interviews Kaufman wrote The Laramie Project a play that explores the complex and varied reactions of Laramie residents to the murder and the subsequent events surrounding it. A variety of actors portray the townspeople of Laramie and their dialogue is drawn from the interviews that Kaufman and the Tectonic Theatre Project conducted.
The International School is an alternative school in the Bellevue School District, comprised of only 547 students from grades 6 to 12. Students follow a rigorous seven-year, seven-subject curriculum, which includes a foreign language (French or German), physical education, math, science, humanities, international studies and a fine arts option (art or music). All students enroll by choice. Admission is by lottery without regard to financial or scholastic ability. It is ranked as the tenth best high school in the nation according to a recent U.S. News & World Report.