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The Laramie Project, Book Review Example

Pages: 3

Words: 829

Book Review

Moises Kaufman and his small theatre troupe the Tectonic Theater Project wrote “The Laramie Project”. What is so impressive about Kaurkman’s play is the amount of voices he chose to bring to the production. He and his crew conducted hundreds of interviews with a bevy of different people in order to get Matthew Shepard’s story as well as everyone else’s story. These interview consisted of everyone except Matt’s parents; people such as the Officer who helped Matt, the guy who found him, the bartender, the killers and their significant others, a priest, his bestfriend, and the list goes on. Most of the interviews reported about how they felt about Matt’s death and the events of hate surrounding it.

Indeed, the play itself is an emotionally-driven work in which the playwright focused on how the town felt about what happened as well as what they felt about Matt (many are outraged at the crime but still hold feelings of hate toward gays). In order to have their voices be the focus of the play, the set director made sure to keep the stage simple with little to no props with characters playing various characters simply by changing a hat on their head.

The play is a revolution in how the town thinks; one interview conducted was with local Wyoming University theatre teacher Beth Loffreda. She says that in order to tell the story of Laramie in the past ten years it must be inclusive of what it’s done as well as what it hasn’t done. The play is distinctly set up in two different parts: one and two. In part one Kaufman sets the stage for the culture of the town, how it’s a “live and let live” place (and not defining what that means from the gay perspective until part two), while part two really focuses on how Matt’s death shaped the town and revealed the town.

Part two was fueled by hate and the repercussions of forgiveness that hate in a person or town can inspire from those witnessing it. McKinney, one of Matt’s murderers, is interviewed ten years after the crime and still states how much he hates homosexuals. The play reveals how daunting a task it is to be yourself in this town, if yourself is a gay individual. Some of the interviews consisted of homosexuals talking about how they fear coming out because they’re afraid what happened to Matt may happen to them. The play is slightly propaganda, or at least, it became a key point in trying to get legislation to put a bill in place against hate crime. What the play also does is inspire change to happen. Since the play focuses on how a lot of the town people became advocates for Matt and in turn for gays, lesbians, etc. the focus shifts again from a story about a boy who was murdered for his sexual nature, to a story about how a town embraced diversity, or how it didn’t.

The play is certainly a large part of why opinions and feelings toward gay people changed after Matt’s murder. Essentially the play allows the audience a peek into the lives of the people who lived through this tragedy in Wyoming, and by inviting the viewer into these lives, essentially Kaufman was inviting them to look at the American normal. To see what small town America is like for someone who’s different in any way. The town’s exclamation that the murderers were boys from the town hit home, not just for the town people but for the audience/reader. Meaning, that if these boys were schooled in the town then they are representatives of that town’s values. Everyone wanted to believe at first that no one from Laramie could have done something so terrible as what happened to Matt Shepard, but as it stands, those boys were from Laramie. Thus, the boys represented the possibility and reality of hate in small town America. All of the interviews that were conducted spoke to this small-town mentality, how sweet everyone is, how connected but if two boys from this town were capable of such horrendous acts then the preconceived notion of such pleasantries vanishes.

In re-telling Matt’s story Kaufman becomes an advocate; the play in fact gives Matt a voice beyond the confines of the grave. That voice in turn is saying, look what happened to me, look where this took place; this wasn’t an urban city full of strangers, this was a place full of people that know each other. The plays focus on the human element of this story, of how people who didn’t know Matt in life mourned him in death because they were afraid living in the town they lived in and they were grateful it didn’t happen to them, and they were astonished that it even happened at all by the hands of local boys. The focus on community, the beguiling and contradictory nature of that thing called community is really what Kaufman’s play is about.

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