Wednesday, May 2, 2012
The Laramie Project, Ten Years Later, Zach Theatre, April 18 - May 13
by Michael Meigs
You know these people; you're comfortable with them. Most likely because you attended their portrayal in March and April of The Laramie Project, but possibly also because you recognize them as the Zach regulars who have appeared before you so many times. The Laramie Project 10 Years Later has the reassuring buzz of a class reunion, which is something like the way it must have been for the Tectonic Theatre Project as they undertook the visits and research in 2008 that led to this text.
The Laramie Project featured the looming absence of gentle Matthew Shepard, the boy-man who was enticed by two men from a bar into a pickup and then driven out to be beaten almost to death, left tied to a fence in a remote and desolate location. It was crafted to tell the horrific, inexorable story of that spectacular event, the investigation and the actions in response both of the justice system and the townspeople of Laramie, a town of fewer than 30,000 persons on I-80 just north of the Colorado border. The work had a necessary beginning in outrage, a middle of reflection and discussion and an end featuring retribution and mercy.
10 Years Later has no such clean plot line, although Moisés Kaufman and the credited collaborators of the Tectonic Theatre Project worked assiduously to give it one. They discovered that the vivid accounts at the trial and in the newspapers were no longer a daily reality in Laramie but instead the story of Matthew Shepard had undergone transformation, partly due to the collective process of healing via forgetfulness and partly due to disinformation from a national investigative television program that claimed drug use and drug dealing lay behind the murder. The theatre troupe's interviews and re-enactments battle those claims, trying to re-establish for their wider audience the picture of a despicable hate crime. They also chart the successful emergence from the closet of a woman who won a seat in the legislature and the ideological combat there over a proposed amendment to the Wyoming constitution to define marriage as consisting solely of the union between a man and a woman.
[images by Kirk R. Tuck]