Theater Students Present ‘Laramie Project’

By Esperanza Juarez

As its latest project the Cal Poly theatre department presents,
“The Laramie Project,” written in 2001 by Moises Kaufman.

Cal Poly’s rendition of the play will run a total of seven
performances from Friday, May 11 through Sunday, May 20.

It is based on the story of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay
student at the University of Wyoming who was brutally beaten on
October 7, 1998 in an act of hate that can only be described as a
complete disregard for human life. Five days after the attack,
Shepard died in a Colorado hospital from his extensive
injuries.

Kaufman commissioned his theatre group, the Tectonic Theater
Project, to visit Laramie, Wyoming. They interviewed several
members of the community to learn their standpoints on the
incident. The result was a play that brings both Shepard’s story
and Laramie residents’ opinions to life.

The play was so gripping and socially significant that it has
been performed by numerous theatre companies and even compelled HBO
FILMS, a division of the popular cable network, to create a movie
adaptation of the play.

“The play is very timely in that it addresses intolerance
leading to violence, a theme that keeps repeating itself in the
news on a daily basis,” said Bernardo Solano, assistant professor
of the theatre department and director of “The Laramie
Project.”

There may be those who ask themselves why a story nearly 9 years
old would not only be relevant to this day, but be of importance to
those who are not a part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual or
transgender community.

“Even though this was an anti-gay motivated attack, this is
something that can easily happen to any other group,” said Fernando
Estrada, coordinator of the Pride Center. “It just happened to be
that in this instance it was a young man who was openly gay.
Violent attacks on groups of people based on race, based on
religion, based on sexuality, based on gender (…) none of this is
new.”

According to the most recent statistics reported in the Uniform
Crime Report by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2005, law
enforcement officials reported 1,171 hate crimes based on sexual
orientation, 1,314 hate crimes based on religious bias and an
astonishing 4,691 reports of hate crimes based on racial bias.

“The reality of hate crimes [is] that it doesn’t have to get
national headlines and attention for it to be a tragedy,” said
Estrada. “These tragedies are occurring every single day. Lives are
being disrupted, families are being broken all because of senseless
violence.”

Cal Poly’s production of “The Laramie Project,” which lasts
approximately two and a half hours, consists of 11 cast members
responsible for performing more than 60 speaking roles.

Those in attendance at the May 12 performance are invited to
stay afterward and participate in a panel discussion to hash out
issues raised by the play.

“As global citizens people should come see the show because it’s
a problem that affects many communities,” said Marina Quintero, a
fifth-year theatre student and cast member of “The Laramie
Project.” “It’s not something [that just happened] in the past;
it’s something that’s still going on, [and] in order for us to fix
these problems or at least address them people need to educate
themselves.”

Esperanza Juarez can be reached by e-mail at
arts@thepolypost.com or by phone at (909) 869-3744.

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