Denver Center Theatre Company will stage the world premiere of Moises Kaufman's docudrama, The Laramie Project, a cultural pulse-taking of the people of Laramie, WY, following the infamous 1998 murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard.
Kaufman, who created Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, will direct the new work, Feb. 19-April 1, 2000. Kaufman co-wrote the piece with members of his acting company, Tectonic Theatre Project. The work's nature was kept secret for the past year while the company interviewed people in the town of Laramie. The actors will play the people they interviewed.
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 production will likely move to New York City after its Denver run, according to a spokesman.
The work, a co-production between DCTC and Tectonic, is said 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 last week. 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. 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.
Nov. 10 is a busy day for the Tony Award-winning Denver Center: Previews begin for the new musical, Barrio Babies, expected to move to New York later in the 1999-2000 season.
-- By Kenneth Jones