The Laramie Project
is a play by Moises Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project about the aftermath of the 1998 murder of openly gay college student Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming. The play draws on hundreds of interviews of Laramie residents conducted by the members of the Tectonic Theater Project (led by Moises Kaufman), as well as news reports and company members' journal entries. Together, these pieces fit together to form the story of how Matthew Shepard died, the reaction both of Laramie and the country at large, and the trials of his murderers Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney.
The piece is widely regarded as one of the most socially important plays in recent memory, and the most influential play centered on homosexuality since Angels In America
. It is used in schools across America and the UK to teach about prejudice and tolerance, and has inspired grassroots efforts to combat discrimination.
This play contains examples of:
- Adult Fear: Matthew's attack.
- All-Star Cast: The Movie. Well, more like an All Hey, It's That Guy! cast, but it's still an impressive amount of notable names, a lot of whom got more famous later.
- Audience Monologue: The play is practically composed of these.
- Based on a True Story: Almost verbatim.
- Cast Full of Gay: Many residents of Laramie interviewed—only natural given the nature of the subject matter.
- Cruel Mercy: Matthew's father, Dennis Shepard, casts this upon Aaron Mc Kinney when he asks for Aaron to not be put to death for his crimes.
Dennis: "Mr. Mc Kinney, I am going to grant you life, as hard as it is for me to do so, because of Matthew. Every time you celebrate Christmas, a birthday, the Fourth of July remember that Matt isn't. Every time you wake up in your prison cell remember that you had the opportunity and the ability to stop your actions that night. You robbed me of something very precious and I will never forgive you for that. Mr. Mc Kinney I give you life in the memory of one who no longer lives. May you have a long life and may you thank Matthew every day for it."
- The Ghost: Matthew Shepard, most notably.
- Good Shepherd: Father Roger Schmit
- Heteronormative Crusader: Reverend Fred Phelps
- Intrepid Reporter: The members of the Tectonic Theater Project fit the bill.
- Just Ignore It: In the movie, this was the residents' response to Fred Phelps by standing between him and his hate mongers and the public wearing winged angel costumes, blocking them from sight too.
- Loads and Loads of Characters / Loads and Loads of Roles: Over seventy, all performed by eight actors. In the movie, each actor does one role.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Completely averted, especially with the all-too-real Rev. Fred Phelps.
- One Steve Limit: The subject of the show is the death of Matthew Shepard: there are two other Matthews, both of whom worked at the same bar. Both one of the murderers and the man who found Matthew were named Aaron. There are two unrelated Stephens. A pretty good example of how unrealistic the trope is.
- Original Cast Precedent: The show is almost always performed with eight people playing the several dozen roles, and frequently actors play some roles of different gender and/or race.
- Our Acts Are Different: The show is performed in three acts of equal length, with an Intermission between each.