In October 1998 in Laramie, Wyoming, a 21-year-old’s life was cut short.
However, through theatre, his legacy lives on.
Citrus’ Theater Arts Department performed “The Laramie Project” on May 12, 13, 19, 20 and 21 inside the Little Theatre.
Directed by Kari Hayter, 13 students covered 92 accounts of interviews from Laramie.
Sophomore actor Nathan Cabrera acted the most roles with 12 throughout the play.
Matthew Shepard, a student at the University of Wyoming, was beaten and tortured and left to die because he was gay.
Weeks after the murder, members of the Tectonic Theater Project conducted 200 interviews in a year and a half, led by founder Moises Kaufman.
These interviews were directly involved in the case and people from the Laramie community.
Kaufman’s vision was to use these interviews and shape them into a theatrical portrayal that would show a small town facing their gruesome reality.
As a result, “The Laramie Project” was created and 19 years later, it is still being performed.
The production was very emotional, but the ending offered hope that stories like Shepard’s will continue to be shared in order to prevent more hate crimes brought on by sexual orientation.
Cabrera’s two notable roles included Philip Dubois, president of the University of Wyoming, and Aaron Kriefels, the student who found Shepard tied to the fence.
The Laramie Project begins with interviews of townspeople from Laramie who knew Shepard personally.
These interviews described Shepard’s passion in politics and interest in the LGBT student alliance on campus.
These interviews transitioned into sharing the story of those who last saw Shepard the night of his murder.
“The Laramie Project” has a unique plot compared to other plays.
Unlike many productions that have acts or scene changes, “The Laramie Project” jumps from one interviewee to the next.
To help smooth transitions and assure the audience is following along, another cast member will announce who is speaking.
On an October night, Shepard went to the Fireside Lounge in Laramie.
Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson began talking to Shepard and offered him a ride home.
Shepard and the rest of the nation would never be the same.
McKinney and Henderson robbed, tortured and beat Shepard until he was unrecognizable.
They tied him to a fence post and left him to die alone in the prairies of Wyoming.
Kriefels found Shepard 18 hours later in a coma, barely breathing.
Shepard was rushed to Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado.
He suffered many injuries including severe brain damage.
Shepard died six days later.
A murder in the small town of Laramie turned into a nation filled with fear.
Media swamped Shepard’s death, pinpointing his sexual orientation as the reason he was murdered.
The Little Theatre provided a perfect intimate setting for such a riveting story.
While telling Shepard’s story interview by interview, the stage often moved forward, elongating it enough for all 13 performers to be on stage at the same time.
The play did a good job of highlighting sexual discrimination and hate-initiated violence.
Ninety-two character portrayals in the play created diverse opinions and perspectives of Shepard’s murder.
With the small number of actors playing multiple roles, many had to change their appearance on stage to the next interviewee.
Although their costumes were not drastically different from one character to the next, the roles and personas each actor took on varied immensely.
Each of the characters portrayed has a distinct perception of Shepard.