Laramie: not just a sequel, a history of hate crime

By Arielle Friscia
October 8, 2009

The first week of my college career, which was two years ago, I decided to make a drastic change from my high school days of soccer and make myself known in the college theater world. A follow-up to the same play that I auditioned for, called “The Laramie Project,” is now being performed for one night only. This new play is called “The Laramie Project Epilogue: 10 years later.”

For those of you who don’t know, “The Laramie Project” is the true story of a town in which a young gay man was horribly tortured and killed in. The story of Matthew Shepard leaves a mark on you that can never compare to anything else. ?

Matthew Shepard was killed for being who he was, for being an open gay man. Shepard was brutally beaten by two men, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, and was probably the victim of one of the first hate-crimes against a gay man that ever made national news. After the beating, Shepard was tied to a wooden fence and left to die alone in the middle of Wyoming. Fortunately, Shepard was found the next morning, but with the serious trauma that he had endured, his fight for his life ended on Oct. 12, 1998.

I will never forget the first time I sat during a technical rehearsal and watched the play being acted out by my friends in the Cabrini College Theater, with the wooden flats that had the hangings of different clothing garments. Each garment represented a different person who was interviewed to make this emotional and passionate play.

Every Thursday to Sunday for two weeks, I watched my friends from behind the wooden flat telling the story of this young man. There is always one monologue that stands out to me and always will. It was the monologue where Matthew Shepard’s father spoke about his son and his death. The first time I heard actor Doug Wiebe say these words, I have to say I choked up. The words from “The Laramie Project” are so powerful and as part of the theater company here at Cabrini, I can only speak for myself and say that this play has helped me grow as a person in accepting others.

Back then we had Leigh Fondakowski, one of the playwrights, come to one of our shows on a Thursday night. As a freshman, I didn’t really take the time to find out exactly who she was, but I remember hearing her talk and it was a great experience to understand why they pursued this story. Having Leigh Fondakowski come out to Radnor to our theater is an event of a lifetime. When else will I have the opportunity to meet the actual playwright of the play that I am a part of?

I have seen the movie and I am telling you it is not the same as watching the story being acted out in the play. The students who worked on this production put an unbelievable amount of work to keep the characters as real for the audience as possible. There were days and nights as a company we spent together making this play as memorable as possible, not only for us, but for the Cabrini community and others. As my first theater production in college, I am thrilled that I was able to be part of a wonderful experience my freshman year.

Now, the Cabrini College Theater has been asked to perform the epilogue simultaneously with the Tectonic Theatre Company and various theaters around the world. We are not just a theater across from admissions; we are so much bigger than that. For me, this show has brought great things to the theater and I have seen it grow tremendously.

It is an honor that we have been asked to perform this show on Monday night. On Oct. 12, 2009, in the Grace Hall Atrium, the lights will shine onto the stage and the actors who performed in the first show, as well as new cast members, will again be impacted by the story of Matthew Shepard.

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Arielle Friscia

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