“The Laramie Project,” a documentary play chronicling the murder of Matthew Shepard and its aftermath in 1998, will be performed April 12 to 22 by University of West Florida theater students.
The play was written by Moises Kaufman in response to the hate crime against Shepard, an openly gay man studying at the University of Wyoming .
“In a way, we’re telling the story instead of performing it,” said Christopher Frazier, a junior musical theater major.
The play takes the audience through the town of Laramie after Shepard’s body was found outside the rural area. The news of the attack and death of Shepard spread rapidly across the country.
“The story is real,” Frazier said. “Kauffman conducted over 200 interviews with the residents of Laramie and made this brilliant work.”
The play addresses many of the issues that the residents of Laramie were forced to face: homophobia, intolerance, hate crimes, faith and forgiveness.
Frazier said that his fellow cast mates and him do not have singular roles. The play documents over 60 characters, and there are only nine performers.
“I cover around nine different people,” he said. “So it most definitely requires avid research into the way people move, act and speak.”
“The Laramie Project” is also a UWF Common Read assigned to incoming freshman students. In an essay titled “Kaufman’s Moment Work: A Technique That Invites Interpretation,” Sarah Ray who appears in the play, writes, “Kaufman created moment work rather than compose theatrical scenes like those that appear in traditional scripts.”
“Unlike traditional forms of theater performance, which engage the audience as passive viewers, moment work solicits a provocative and socially relevant dialogue, allowing the audience to be active creators in the meaning of the play.”
The cast of “The Laramie Project” said that the play’s director, Sam Osheroff, has pushed them to bring the story to life through passion and hard work.
“He and his wife, Kris Danford, have made pivotal strides in our education as theater students,” Frazier said, “They expect us to work and be passionate with what we do, and it’s been a privilege working with both of them.”
He also said that most of the work he and the other castmates do comes from observation of the characters’ traits and the creativity to make each individual both distinct and different.
“These are real people dealing with a real crime,” Frazier said. “I think each name in the script was treated as such.”
Osheroff said he thinks the cast is really strong and that they all work together as a very tight ensemble.
“They use a lot of physical and vocal variation to change characters at the drop of a hat,” he said.
For more information visit, www.uwf.edu/theatre.