Laramie Project recounts story 10 years later

By Arielle Friscia
October 15, 2009

Lauren Sliva

After much anticipation the Cabrini College Theatre production of “The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later an Epilogue” hit the stage on Oct. 12, in the Grace Hall Atrium. With a 20-minute video feed from Lincoln Center in New York City and the introduction of the biggest event in theatre history, actress Glenn Close walked out onto the stage reviewing the show. Close then gave an introduction to mother of Matthew Shepard, Judy Shepard, who walked onto the stage to introduce Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theatre Company.

The lights then faded out and came back up with the Cabrini College Theatre’s cast of “The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later an Epilogue,” with script in their hands about to perform the show for almost 300 people in attendance.

“The emotions from the original show are still so real to me,” Joe Kimpflen, history and political science major, said. “Tonight, because of the manner and the publicity surrounding the play, the performance seemed surreal and more powerful than a normal reading ever was.”

The theater hired a professional production company to help with the live broadcast with the Tectonic Theatre. The video production crew was there all day, starting at 9 a.m. on Sunday. They worked in the atrium setting up the screen and cameras to film the big production.

The production crew worked not only all last weekend, but for weeks setting up the stage with the same wooden chairs that were once used two years ago for the original show and the lighting that made the cast shine on the stage for everyone to see. Along with Director Tom Stretton, the cast and crew were ready to make this night a memorable one for everyone in the audience.

“It went well, there were a couple technical problems,” Kelly Rodrigues, criminology and psychology major, said. “The script can be hard to understand, but I think the actors did really well switching characters.”

Not only was the Cabrini community present in the audience, but alumni from the first show came to watch as well. The alumni watched as the people they once played two years ago come back a live on stage.

“It was amazing the whole play was more powerful than the first one. The themes I liked were remorse and how we can make a difference,” Janene Gibbons, Cabrini alumna and actress from “The Laramie Project,” said. “Getting the killers to talk was powerful and getting into the legislative process of the Matthew Shepard act shows that his story is still alive.”

The script revisited some of the old characters who were first heard of in the show two years ago such as Romaine Patterson, Matt Shepard’s friend and an activist during his case with “Angel Action,” Dave O’Malley, head of the investigation of Matthew Shepard’s death and Reggie Fluty who found Matthew Shepard tied to the fence that is no longer there for people to see.

The last time the show was brought onto the stage, there was no face-to-face interview for the audience to really know what was going through the mind of the murderers of Matthew Shepard. The only dialogue that the audience heard from the murderers were through the trial tapes. In the “Laramie Project: 10 Years Later an Epilogue,” Stephen Belber and Greg Pierotti two of the writers of the show met face to face with Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney, the murderers of Matthew Shepard.

Both men are placed in a Virginia State Penitentiary, where they sit in their cells for 23 hours each day. The words of Henderson showed remorse for what happened that night, but it was what McKinney had to say to Pierrotti, which made any audience member sit at the edge of their seat. After the show was presented, Pierrotti was asked a question from the live broadcast after the show about what it was like to interview McKinney. Pierotti said from the live broadcast that he took a 10 hour conversation that he had with McKinney and brought it down to what was performed in the play which was about 10 minutes.

From the live news feed that occurred after the show with questions and answers from the Tectonic Theatre Company the audience even though most had left at this point, was able to get the inside scoop of how the show really developed. Students could go on Twitter and ask a question. One lucky Cabrini student was fortunate enough to get a question answered by Judy Shepard herself with the question “How does it make you feel to find out that the house has passed the “Matthew Shepard Act” this past Friday?”

Judy Shepard spoke her answer in tears and not only was this memorable by this epilogue, but has brought hope to those who face the pain of hate crimes everyday in society. The show received a standing ovation, and the Cabrini College Theatre once again retold the tragic story of Matthew Shepard with emotion and passion.

“Cabrini College helped make history in the United States of America, by participating in a WORLD WIDE EVENT,” Robert Stoop, junior pre-nursing major, said. “We are Cabrini College and we are history!”

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Arielle Friscia

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