HOUSTON, TX (April 28, 2010) – What happens to a town when something unexpected, unconscionable and unforgivable rips it apart? What happens to its people when they are thrust into the unrelenting glare of a national media spotlight? And what happens to a community when trust among its own people has been shattered?
Those questions led a group of young actors and writers from the Tectonic Theatre Project, a New York City theater company, to the unassuming college town of Laramie, Wyoming, where they sought out Laramie residents – shopkeepers, teachers, students, bartenders and social workers – whose lives were forever changed on Oct. 6, 1998, the night gay college student Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten, tied up and left for dead on a fence off a rural road.
The result of their work was "The Laramie Project," a thought-provoking, critically acclaimed and emotionally riveting theatre experience about a small town at the epicenter of an incomprehensible crime.
Holocaust Museum Houston and Theatre New West join to present this ground-breaking work in eight performances on Thursdays and Saturdays June 24 through July 24, beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays and 8 p.m. on Saturdays. One Sunday performance is scheduled for July 11, beginning at 6 p.m. There are no performances the Fourth of July week. Shepard's mother, Judy Shepard, will speak prior to the beginning of the performance on Saturday, July 10, and will autograph copies of her new book "The Meaning of Matthew: My Son's Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed."
All performances will be in the Museum's Albert and Ethel Herzstein Theater at the Morgan Family Center, 5401 Caroline St., in Houston's Museum District. Tickets are $25 each or $20 for seniors age 62 or older or students with a valid student identification card. For reservations or more information, call Theatre New West at 713-522-2204 or visit www.theatrenewwest.com. The play is presented in conjunction with Houston's annual Gay Pride Week activities.
The original eight-member troupe recorded more than 400 hours of interviews with the town's citizens over a two-year period following Shepard's murder. The play dramatizes the troupe's visit, using the actual words from the interview transcripts to create a portrait of a town forced to confront itself in the aftermath of such a tragic event.
"We tried to tell the story of the town of Laramie, as opposed to telling the story of Matthew Shepard," said writer and director Moises Kaufman. "There are between 20 and 30 anti-gay homicides reported every year, which means at least twice as many aren't reported. But for some reason, this one resonated. This was a murder where the whole nation, and some might say, large parts of the world, said, 'Wait a minute. Look at what we are doing. Look at what's happening.'
"I wanted to find out, 'Why, why this murder?' So I took my theater company to Laramie, and we listened to the people of the town. I thought we might be able to create a document, not only about where Laramie was at the end of the millennium, but where we are as a country at this moment in our history – not only in relationship to homosexuality, but in relationship to class, economics and education – all the fault lines in our society."
Originally performed off-Broadway, the play will be directed locally by Theatre New West Artistic Director Joe Watts.
Watts says the Houston production promises to be unlike any other and will include live vocals and several dream sequences.
Time magazine hailed the original production as one of the top 10 plays of 2000, and New York magazine called it "nothing short of stunning." It has gone on to become one of the most widely performed plays in America. It was produced as a film by HBO Films and was selected as the opening night premiere at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival.
Holocaust Museum Houston is dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust, remembering the 6 million Jews and other innocent victims and honoring the survivors' legacy. Using the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides, the Museum teaches the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy.
Holocaust Museum Houston’s Morgan Family Center is free and open to the public and is located in Houston’s Museum District at 5401 Caroline St., Houston, TX 77004. For more information about the Museum, call 713-942-8000 or visit www.hmh.org.