The cast and designers have been announced for the Denver Center Theatre Company production of The Laramie Project, in association with Tectonic Theater Project, making its world premiere Feb. 19 at DCTC's Ricketson Theatre.
The New York-bound docudrama, directed by Moises Kaufman and developed with his acting company, is said to be a cultural pulse-taking of the people of Laramie, WY, following the infamous 1998 murder of gay college student Shepard.
The company includes Stephen Belber, Amanda Gronich, Andy Paris, John McAdams, Greg Pierotti, Barbara Pitts, Kelli Simkins and an eighth actor yet to be announced. Members of the Tectonic company, actors and writers, interviewed folks in Wyoming, and the subjects will be characters in the drama. McAdams, Pierotti and Paris appeared in the Off-Broadway staging of Tectonic's Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscard Wilde.
Designers will be Robert Brill (set), Moe Schell (costumes) and Besty Adams (lighting). Peter Golub is the composer.
The Laramie Project officially opens Feb. 26 in Denver, after previews, and continues to April 1, prior to a New York staging later in 2000. Kaufman created Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, a hit Off-Broadway, in London and regionally.
Tectonic company members include head writer and assistant director Leigh Fondakowski, associate writers Belber, Pierotti and Steve Wangh. The dramaturgs are Gronich, Paris, Pitts, Simpkins, McAdams, Sarah Lambert and Maude Mitchell.
DCTC artistic Donovan Marley announced The Laramie Project plan in a Denver press conference the morning of Nov. 10, days after the conviction of the murderer of Shepard. Kaufman was in the courtroom during the trial.
The work is expected to show a range of attitudes about the beating and crucifixion-style treatment of Shepard, who was lured form a bar by men claiming they were gay. He was robbed, beaten and tied to a fence in freezing temperatures. He died days later in a hospital.
One of the men accused in the murder admitted his involvement, the other was convicted. Both will spend their lives in jail.
Matthew Shepard is not a character in The Laramie Project, according to a DCTC spokesman, nor is the murder reenacted. The play is about the people of Laramie and their response to a slaying that has galvanized those pushing for gay tolerance and hate-crime legislation.
On Nov. 14, 1998, a month after University of Wyoming student Shepard was murdered, playwright Kaufman and members of his company traveled to Laramie and began a series of face-to-face interviews with the people of the town where the story unfolded. Over the next year, the company traveled to Wyoming several more times and conducted more than 200 personal interviews.
The Laramie Project will take the place of Byrd's Boy, a new work produced in tandem with a New York producer who was not able to find a theatre in Manhattan for the show. Byrd's Boy is postponed until a time when the Denver staging can move right to New York, according to a spokesman.
The Laramie Project will be staged in the 250-seat Ricketson Theatre, the velvet-walled space where Kaufman's Gross Indecency, the docudrama about the public fall of Wilde, opened the 1999-2000 DCTC season.
-- By Kenneth Jones