The Laramie Project at Tacoma Little Theatre

Laramie Projectby Alec Clayton for OLY ARTS

A Benefit for Orlando

Tacoma Little Theatre (TLT) is producing a one-night-only reading of The Laramie Project on June 26 as a benefit for the survivors of the massacre in Orlando. Directed by Rachel Fitzgerald, who is also one of the many actors to perform, the pulling together of this project at TLT was a spur-of-the-moment action.

Fitzgerald said, “I came up with the idea when I asked myself, ‘What can I do?’” The show is not listed on the TLT website yet, and as of this writing there has been little publicity other than the show poster. [Editor’s note: the TLT website now lists the event here.] In addition to TLT, it is sponsored by Tacoma Musical Playhouse, Lakewood Playhouse and Tacoma Youth Theatre.

The Laramie Project is more than just a show. It is an ongoing project going back almost 20 years that has spawned two plays: The Laramie Project and The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later.

The two plays emerged from the aftermath of the death of gay college student Matthew Shepard. In 1998 on a cold October night 21-year-old Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten, tied to a fence and left for dead on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming. He was found 18 hours later and rushed to the hospital, where he died five days later. The case became a media frenzy, spawning multiple books and much commentary. The events also became a rallying cry for LGBTQ activists worldwide.

Five weeks after Matthew Shepard’s death, Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project of New York City went to Laramie, Wyoming. In the course of the next year they conducted more than 200 interviews with people of Laramie. The team wrote the play using the actual words of the interviewees, including people who knew Matthew Shepard and even his killers, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. A decade later they returned to Laramie to interview those same people again to see how their views might or might not have changed.

The names have not been changed to protect the innocent. The “characters” in this play are the actual people involved with Matthew Shepard’s death, his family, his friends, the investigators and lawyers, and even the murderers. The words are their words, edited for coherence and dramatic flow but not censored. This is a powerful, emotionally charged play.

Many of the best known and most loved actors in the area will be in this reading, including: Charlie Stevens, Christian Carvajal, Deya Ozburn, Hayden Pedersen, James Venturini, Jed Slaughter, Jeffery Swiney-Weaver, Jennifer King, Jeremy Thompson, John Munn, Kadi Burt, Karen Norlin Christensen, Katelyn Nicole, LaNita Hudson, Luke Amundson, Maggie Knott, Marcy Rodenborn, Rachel Fitzgerald, Rachel Lionheart, Russ Coffey, Scott Campbell, Shelby Isham, Steve Barnett, Susan Anderson-Newham, Syra Puett, Tyler Lydic, Wade Hicks and Xander Layden.

“People came out of the woodwork wanting to read,” Fitzgerald said.

This reading of The Laramie Project is a benefit for the Rainbow Center of Tacoma and Equality Institute Florida to support survivors of the Orlando massacre.

What: The Laramie Project

Where: Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 North I St., Tacoma

When: 7:30 p.m., June 26

How much: donation

Get tickets: Tacoma Little Theatre




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