The tragic event that inspired The Laramie Project was the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming. On Oct. 7, 1998, Matthew left The Fireside Bar of Laramie, WYwith Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, two Laramie residents who robbed, beat and left him tied to a fence. Discovered 18 hours later, Matthew was brought to the local hospital and later transported to the Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, CO. He never regained consciousness and succumbed to his injuries on Oct. 12, 1998.
This crime and the subsequent trials of McKinney and Henderson garnered national media attention, and three months after Matthew's death, the Tectonic Theatre Project arrived in Laramie to conduct their first interview. After hundreds of interviews conducted over the next two years the Tectonic Theatre Project constructed The Laramie Project: a soul searching recreation of one community's struggle with the aftermath of hate.
Kaufman and the Tectonic Theatre Project first performed The Laramie Project at the Denver Theatre Center in 2000 with additional performances at the Union Square Theatre Off-Broadway and in Laramie, WY in 2002. The Tectonic Theatre Project has produced other critically acclaimed work, including Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde and, most recently, I am My Own Wife.
A company of 10 USD students portray the more than 70 characters in the play. The ensemble includes two students from Iowa, Maggie Conley and Avalon Kann of Des Moines and McGregor, respectively; Paul Petersen of Ramstein, Germany; and South Dakota natives Rob Garness of Belle Fourche, Andy Heller of Armour, Ryan Henderson of Box Elder, Alyssa Holler of Roslyn/Groton, Amanda Johnson of Sioux Falls, Randy Niles of Aberdeen, and Devin Toft of Canton.
April Hubbard, a graduate student from Orange City, IA, directs The Laramie Project. The scenic design is by undergraduate student Randy Niles of Aberdeen, while the costume and sound designs are by graduate students Emily Forsman of Helena, MT, and Jody Tidwell of Kearney, NE. Lights are provided by undergraduate student Chris Schloss of Yankton.
Tickets to The Laramie Project are $8 for adults, $6 for senior citizens (65+), youth (K-12) and non-U students and $3 for U students with current ID. Seating is limited and the Saturday evening performance is sold out. Post-show discussions will follow the Wednesday and Saturday evening performances. Box office hours are noon to 5:00 p.m. weekdays and noon to curtain on days of performance beginning Monday, March 26. To reserve tickets, call the University theatre box office at 605-677-5400.