Today I attended a reading of THE LARAMIE PROJECT: TEN YEARS LATER, the sequel to the LARAMIE PROJECT play written about the death of Matthew Shepard in 1988. Last week, students read the original work but I was unable to attend. However, I’m grateful I was able to make it today as this 2009 follow up is a fascinating piece of theatre.
The students were reading relatively cold and the day was focused on the text rather than character. With text this real (after all, it comes directly from the mouths of the real-life characters from Laramie, Wyoming) characterization is almost unnecessary. Theatre Department Director Stephen Skiles hosted the casual event, which included a discussion afterwards of the themes and topics in the play.
I was struck by several of the characters words as well as some of the things the students in attendance offered as insights and rhetorical questions during the discussion. Much has been written about Matthew Shepard’s death, gay rights, same sex marriage, and hate crime legislation . . . but the most profound thing I walked away with was that there is a very big difference between “change” and “progress.”
I’m very excited about what Mr. Skiles and Xavier University is doing with their brand new theatre program. Next up for them is AVENUE Q, opening on April 4th. Tonight – in just over 90 minutes – is the last performance of FROM WHITE PLAINS. You should go see it if you’re reading this with nothing to do tonight. You won’t regret it.