October marked 15 years since the death of Matthew Shepard — a hate crime that sparked a nationwide conversation about civil rights and social justice that continues to this day.
This year at the University of Richmond, that conversation is continuing around The Laramie Project, the play written by Moisés Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Project about the response among residents of the Wyoming town where Shepard was killed. Kaufman and his theater company conducted hundreds of interviews with members of the town, ranging from rural ranchers to university professors to priests.
The play was selected for the University’s One Book, One Richmond program, giving students, faculty and staff the opportunity to discuss the subject through many lenses. The yearlong series of events included classroom discussions, a screening of the film version of the play, and a lecture from Judy Shepard, Matthew’s mother.
The Production Studies III class also presented a three-night run of The Laramie Project, with 11 student actors portraying more than 60 characters in scenes depicting the weeks following Shepard’s death. A few days after the student production, Kaufman spoke on campus as part of the Jepson Leadership Forum; One Book, One Richmond; and WILL/WGSS Speaker Series.
In the following video, Kaufman, as well as students from Production Studies III, talk about the continued importance of Shepard’s story today, and the role of theater in stirring social change.