In 1998, Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming, was beaten and left to die near the small town of Laramie, Wyoming. He died six days later, and the murder eventually prompted federal hate crime legislation. The play follows the town’s residents and their reactions to the murder, which made national headlines.
According to Director Greg Foro, the department had been looking at “The Laramie Project” and decided it was time to produce the play now in honor of the 20th anniversary of the tragedy that inspired it.
The play addresses hate crimes and social-economical issues.
Foro said that the accents in the play are very similar to the actors’ accents, so they did not have to rigorously rehearse.
According to Charles Williams, the assistant director, the seats have been filled for every show so far, which the actors appreciate. Not only are tickets being sold, but the message that comes with this play reaches almost 80 people a show.
Inside the program, thanks to one of the crew members, $3 off coupons are offered for Vitality Bowls: Superfood Cafe in Manteca.
There are many scenes that cause the audience to react to the story, some of which are evoked from a Christian point of views and vulgarity.
Nina Thiel, seemed very moved by the show. She attended to see Nick Giovanni, who played an array of characters in the show.
In the play, the character Zubaida Ula says, “I’m saying it wrong, but basically he said, c’mon guys, let’s show the world that Laramie is not this kind of town. But it is that kind of town. If it wasn’t this kind of town, why did it happen here? I mean, you know what I mean, like- thats a lie. Because it happened here.” The line caught Thiel’s attention. She described it as “really gripping.”
Attendee Andrea Harris had a similar comment about that specific line.
“It made me cry,” said Harris. “I’m glad they’re doing this story, and educating people. It is a story that should be told.”
Both ladies remember the Laramie incident and how it had made headlines in the late 90s.
Williams, assistant director for “The Laramie Project,” only recently learned about Matthew Shepard’s story while researching the play.
“I didn’t know about it until I got involved [in the production],” Williams shared. “It all made me so emotional, that homophobia is still happening today. I was crying through rehearsals. Every night the audience has different reactions. This show really touched people.”
Actresses Zemmoia Bryant and Jaida Cornish both feel like they’ve learned a lot through their shared experience in “The Laramie Project.”
During the show many unsettling scenes occur. The point of the show is not to make the audience uncomfortable but instead tell the truth of Laramie. The evil associated with the town is misleading. This play was written, as each audience learns, to hear Laramie residents’ defend their humanity.
“The Laramie Project,” directed by Greg Foro runs in the Al Muller Studio Theater until Oct. 28. Ticket prices range from $4 for students and seniors to $9 for adults.