The Alfred State College Drama Club will present a staged reading of The Laramie Project, written by Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project. Performances are scheduled for Thursday and Friday, Feb. 9 and 10 at 7 p.m., and Saturday, Feb. 11 at 2 p.m. in the Pioneer Lounge on Alfred State Campus. The performance is open to the public, but due to adult themes, parental discretion is advised.
Cost of admission is $2; proceeds will go to support a charity that addresses how hatred, violence, and harassment impact young people. There will also be a free will offering.
The play is based on an incident that took place in 1998 when Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay student registered at the University of Wyoming, was tied to a cattle fence, beaten about the head, robbed, and left to die on a bitterly cold night in October. Eighteen hours later, he was accidentally discovered by a biker, who had trouble believing that the figure he saw attached to the fence was human. Police and ambulances were dispatched, and Shepard was taken to a local hospital, to no avail. He never regained consciousness and died several days later due to his head injuries. Two local young men were charged with the crime.
Kaufman's goal was to create a play that focused not on the assault on Matthew Shepard, but on the community where such an attack could happen, and how many of the citizens reacted to the crime. The play draws on hundreds of interviews conducted by the theatre company with inhabitants of the town, company members' own journal entries, and published news reports.
Structured as a documentary in three acts, the play attempts to reenact the events that occurred on that fateful night. Eight actors portray more than 60 characters in a series of short scenes. It is a powerful look at the different ways a community and the nation reacted to hatred. The Laramie Project is often used as a method to teach about prejudice and tolerance in personal, social, and health education and citizenship in schools.