On the 20th anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death, Williston students explore themes of tragedy and understanding in the fall play, The Laramie Project.
This fall, 20 Williston students participated in a production of The Laramie Project, a play based on the hundreds of interviews conducted by a theater company in the wake of the hate-crime murder of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old University of Wyoming student who was gay. The play held special resonance 20 years after his death, as Shepard’s remains were interred at the Washington National Cathedral on October 26, an honor given to great Americans, from Woodrow Wilson to Helen Keller.
We asked members of the production to describe how it felt to be part of the play, and how it shaped their perception of humanity, and of hope.
Director of the Williston Theatre
“This play means a great deal to me—it shows that the arts, theatre specifically, have a role in creating social change and opening up difficult conversations. I’ve directed it three times now and it always asks me to be a better theater practitioner and person. It reminds me that making our world a better place is an active pursuit—and I am always inspired by how the actors take this message to heart. The amount of community education and outreach they do makes me hopeful for the future. It is always terrifying to see the darkest side of humanity, which rears its head in this play, but it is ultimately a hopeful play that reminds us to listen and see one another.”
ALEX MARWAHA ’20
“Laramie is easy to write off as a homophobic town in Wyoming that is entirely hostile to queer people, but it isn’t. Queer people live in Laramie, and the play forces you to understand the humanity of the people who hate—to understand why they think that way.”
MARGARET STRANGE ’20
“This play asked us to come together as a community and as a company, and because of that, I’ve learned a lot about myself and the other people working on this show. It makes me hopeful that people of all kinds can come together and create something beautiful.”
BRIE BANNAS ’20
The Laramie Project was an experience I will never forget. It reminded me of how important it is to love and accept in this chaotic world. It was an opportunity to tell a story for so many people who couldn’t, and I am forever grateful for it. In the words of Harry Woods, ‘Thank you, Matthew.’”