Karger’s "The Laramie Project" to Debut on Campus

James Calabresi ’20
Contributing Writer
Barbara Karger, director of Trinity College’s fall production of The Laramie Project, chose to put on a contentious play this semester. The Laramie Project, a play by Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theatre Company, is about the death of a young, gay university student. It is usually categorized as a documentary play because it is based off of real events.
Matthew Shepard was finishing a night of drinking at a local bar in Wyoming when two Laramie residents assaulted him. They beat him and tied him to a fence overnight, where he was eventually found and brought to a hospital. In the days and weeks following Shepard’s beating, the small-town story received national coverage and sparked heated debates over homosexuality. For the period of a week, while the
future of Mathew Shepard remained uncertain, many major cities held candlelight vigils. The University of Wyoming Homecoming Parade even featured students dressed up as Angels in order to counteract the Baptist Church’s homophobic response to the incident.
The Laramie Project focuses on the days after the incident. It discusses the coverage of and public reaction to Shepard’s death as well as the trial of the accused: Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson.
Karger says that The Laramie Project has been very popular play in past years, yet has never been performed at Trinity. Many students in her directing class consistently refer to the play with admiration. However, as of last year when she talked to her class, there was much less general knowledge about it, though the students were excited when they heard about its plot and storyline. Then, with the news of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando on June 12th of this year, Karger decided that The Laramie Project would be the perfect show to stage. Given the resurgence of a national discussion about homosexuality and what defines a hate crime, Karger decided that the kind of dialogue present in this play might be the perfect subject for the Trinity community to reflect on.
Karger goes on to say that she also chose to produce this play due to the rise of Donald Trump. The surge in hate speech that Trump invites has combined to form what Karger sees as an “atmosphere of intolerance.” To Karger, The Laramie Project was a good way to create discussion about such issues.
It is also noteworthy that the play does not necessarily take a stance one way or the other in regards to the right response to the incident, or whether or not the death penalty ought to have been served in this case. Instead, it presents many points of view and, in Karger’s mind, is a very eye-opening theatrical experience. Through such a tool as The Laramie Project, Karger hopes to keep a discussion flowing among the youth of Trinity College and invites one and all to see the show for their own benefit.
Karger says she hopes people take these ideas to heart and continue to de- bate the idea of tolerance even after the current political figureheads are gone. Her idea that we should turn our attention toward hate speech and hate crimes no matter what the current social climate is a powerful one. The Laramie Project opens in the Goodwin Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 17.

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