“The Laramie Project-Ten Years Later” at UA tonight

Matthew Shepard
Matthew Shepard via wikipedia

Eleven years ago, early October found me crying as I sat in my home office writing my weekly column for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The subject was Matthew Shepard and how he had been picked up in a gay bar by two young men who then drove him to the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming, tied him to a fence in the freezing weather, stripped him of some of his clothing, and beat him to within an inch of his life. Then, they left.

The 21-year-old Shepard was discovered 18 hours later by a passerby, still alive, but in a coma. He would die six days later, but when I was writing the column, he was still hanging on in a hospital, suffering massive brain damage from being pistol whipped by his attackers. I normally don’t cry when I write, but I was so angry that I could do nothing except cry and pound my outrage onto my keyboard. Shepard was attacked simply because he was gay. Why? I kept thinking. Why?

My then 10-year-old daughter arrived home from school that day, saw my red eyes and asked what was wrong. I explained what had happened to Shepard.

“They left him all alone?” she asked, seeming to have skipped right over the fact that Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson had beat Shepard so severely.

“Yes,” I said.

Her next words have stayed with me, and return every October when I remember Shepard’s parents and their indescribable loss. She asked: “Didn’t they know he would want his Mommy?”

An innocent question from someone who couldn’t imagine what it was like to be 21, what it would be like to be living where you wouldn’t be seeing your mom every day. But she could imagine was that any child in pain would want help. And in her 10-year-old world, help meant Mommy.

What Shepard wanted was the last thing McKinney and Henderson cared about. At least that’s how it appeared to me. My knowledge of their mind set was limited, but tonight, everyone in Tucson has the chance to find out what Shepard’s murderers were thinking by going to the free presentation of The Laramie Project – Ten Years Later; An Epilogue.

The staged reading is the final chapter of the original The Laramie Project. Right after Shepard’s murder, a theater company descended upon the town to conduct interviews with the townspeople. The play that came out of those interviews a year after Shepard’s death was The Laramie Project, which has become one of the most performed plays in the past decade. Lacking in that play, however, were the voices of Shepard’s parents or killers, which the epilogue adds.

The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later, will be performed in UA’s Centennial Hall as it is simultaneously performed in more than 100 other theaters in all fifty states, Canada, Great Britain, Spain, Hong Kong and Australia (see the links above for all the details of how the project is managing all this). It revisits what has happened in Laramie since the original play and how Shepard’s death still affects the community. There will be an interactive web cast connecting the various sites during the performance, which starts at Centennial Hall at 7 p.m. It is free and open to the public, but Centennial Hall only seats about 1,000 people, so folks interested in attending might want to get there early.

Anyone who cares about a civilized society should go. Anyone who wonders how hate thrives in ignorance should go. And anyone who has ever thought that a person’s differences deserve a violent response, or wondered how anyone can forgive such violence, should go.


16 thoughts on ““The Laramie Project-Ten Years Later” at UA tonight

  1. Thanks for blogging on this event Renee.  My husband and I plan to attend, and so do a bunch of our friends.

  2. Tonight’s  reading/play was very moving, dealing with the question of whether there has been any concrete and lasting social change 10 years after Matthew Shepard’s death, in Laramie (pop. 27,687) and elsewhere.  Part of the legacy of his murder was that tonight, people in 150 theaters all over the world were seeing this play and realizing that civil rights for gays/lesbians has still not been attained in America.

    1. The struggle has been going on for far more than 10 years of course, and I think that it is worth noting that while many shed tears (of various descriptions) over Matt Shepard’s death, one “heartbreaking tragedy” has recently been slandering Kevin Jennings, founder of GLSEN, as promoting child molestation while our blog-god-mistress would deny that Matt was entitled to equal rights because all of the scientific results as to whether he was equal “weren’t in yet”.
      The value of these things is to force people to realize that they need to choose a side.
      The lukewarm are those who deserve to be spewed.

      1. Tip: I don’t know where you get the idea that I would deny that Matt was entitled to equal rights. I’ve never written that; did you even read my post about the Shepard case?
        I’ve never slandered Kevin Jennings; didn’t even know about him and don’t know what you’re referring to. I have written – after interviewing young gay men who felt abused by the network – about the North American Man-Boy Love Association and will stand by my completely not lukewarm stance that that group is a cover for child molestation and that it is something that gay people should stand up against. As the one 19-year-old gay kid I interviewed said, in paraphrase b/c the interview was seven years ago, “We want straight people to think we (gay people) are normal, that we are just like them, then we walk down the streets in parades dressed in thongs and our older men support NAMBLA. We’ll never get equal rights like that.”
        He was smart, articulate, focused on making progress for gay rights and, btw, really pissed at what he called “the old guard.”

  3. On behalf of the rest of the cast and crew of Laramie Project 10 Years Later, thanks to all who came to see the performance last night. As an actor, I have to say, this was by far the most powerful theatrical experience I have had in a long time, particularly because of the warm reception we received from the audience.

  4. I am haunted also.  The  gay/lib media  has seen to it that everyone in the civilized world is aware of who and what Matthew Sheppard was.

    What I am haunted by is not Matthew Sheppard and what has become a rather common rallying cry of homosexuals against assaults and attacks. Rather, what haunts me is the absolute refusal of the mainstream liberal media to report or discuss the case of Jesse Dirkhising,  and his brutal torture,  rape,  and murder by two homosexual pedophiles.  I am angry, but hardly surprised at the silence surrounding this sad and perverted event,  and yes,  I am haunted by the very thought of it.  For those of you brave enough to read on,  kindly make use of the attached link that follows.


    1. Thank you so much for posting this link. You’re right, I didn’t know about it, and it happened in 1999 according to the date on the post. This too is unspeakable, but I have to note that pedophiles come in both the straight and gay type. They should all be put in jail for their crimes and never released because all the research shows now that they cannot be rehabilitated. People who want to have sex with children are beyond sick – they are a danger to civilized society – — we should stop locking up petty drug criminals (college kids with pot, for instance) and focus on the truly dangerous people. Thanks again for posting the link.

      1. Hi Renee, my personal belief is that all life is sacred.

        That being said, I am aware(as most readers are) that pedophilia occurs among heterosexuals as well as among homosexuals.  However, the numbers don’t lie, and there is a significantly greater *percentage* of pedophiles to be found among the male  homosexual population than among heterosexual men. That’s the cold hard facts.  Whenever I find I may be getting too sympathetic to stories of Matthew Sheppard’s heinous murder,  I remember Jesse Dirkhising and realize that another Jesse Dirkhising type of murder may have been prevented by this guy’s demise.  The numbers favor that scenario a whole  lot more than the other way around.

      2. When someone says “cold hard facts” I like to see them backed up. Do you have any facts to back up that there is a significantly greater percentage of pedophiles among gay men?

      3. Hi Renee,  I did not intend to write a dissertation on the matter, however, the info is out there for anyone who can use a search engine.  Just a quick trip into Google produced this comment citing homosexual activists in their own words and own survey.

        English professor Karla Jay, Ph.D., and well-educated journalist Allen Young, both homosexual activists, conducted the first major survey on homosexuality in America in 1979. Their work is still cited in academic studies and involved over 5,000 homosexuals from all walks of life. Titled “The Gay Report,” the study published data on underage sex, disease, gross promiscuity, suicidal tendencies and more.
        One cannot help but applaud the honesty of these two homosexuals in publishing the results of their study, which documented that “23 percent of respondents admitted to having had sex with youths aged 13-15, while 19 percent felt positive about sexual activity within this age group.” Tragically, 50 percent of the males in their survey experienced their first sexual encounter at age 15 or less.
        I realize there are many in denial among the homosexuals and their advocates,  but an objective person researching the issue can only come to the same conclusion that I arrived at.

  5. I tell you, renee,
    I’m not a religous person myself, but I really admire some of the topics you hit on. You don’t take the easy route, but hit on some touchy things that stir emotion.
    I know it must be hard sometimes, but keep at it.

    1. Thanks —- and luckily the title of the blog has “and more” in it, because I do stray alot from defined religion/religious topics.

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