Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Laramie Project, Tucson High Style

Lolly told me about it.  We find ourselves at the same, interesting, unconnected venues without planning together, so I took her suggestion seriously.  A blast email found two friends with a free afternoon, and we were off on an adventure unlike any other.

This was a deep, serious, thought and tear provoking event.  Based on months of interviews by Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theatre Project, the play chronicles the death of Matthew Shepard through the eyes of the 22,687 inhabitants of Laramie, Wyoming.

Tied so tightly that the first officer on the scene struggled to cut the ropes, beaten so badly that his face was unrecognizable, he bled and cried and suffered alone until a random bicyclist passed the lonely buck fence in the wind.  The only clean place on his body were the tracks of tears on his cheeks.

Even the plain facts are horrifying.  At 5'2" tall.... or maybe taller, depending on whose telling the story.... Matt was a 22 year old student at the University of Wyoming, there in Laramie.  He was gay.  His murderers were drinking, looking for trouble, and offended by his sexual orientation.  All of that came out in their confessions; the crime was solved with remarkable speed and efficiency.  The police made sure to get it right.

But the facts are not the center of the play.  How could this happen?  Who are we as a town?  What could I, personally have done to alter the outcome?  How can I live comfortably within my skin when my sexual orientation is at the center of a homicide?  For there was no doubt that gay panic was at the heart of this crime.  The perpetrators admitted it.  The townsfolk discussed it.  The audience soaked it in.

Meet People's 2013 Teachers of the Year

Directed by Art Almquist, People Magazine's 2013 Reader's Choice Teacher of the Year, thirty students at Tucson High Magnet School drew us into their world, which wasn't their world except during the eight run schedule.  It was hard to imagine them living any other way.

The limo driver, Doc... Officer Reggie Fluty... Romaine Patterson.... I know that there were students on the stage performing the roles but, in the moment, I was unaware of any difference between the human saying the lines and the human who told them to the Tectonic Theatre Project fifteen years ago.  

Fifteen years ago these kids were riding tricycles and eating Otter Pops.  Fifteen years ago Judy and Dennis Shepard's oldest son, his father's hero, sat at the corner of his local bar, drinking and taking in the scene.  Did he come on to the driver of the truck by placing his hand on an unwelcoming thigh?  Did that prompt punches to the face and blows to the head with the butt of a gun?  Was he kidnapped or did he go willingly, looking for a ride home after a late night out?  Again, the facts are less important than the reactions surrounding them.

The religious leaders' intolerance.... the don't flaunt it in my face diners in the coffee shop.... the classmates and the educators and the waitress and the physicians and the others who lived and worked in Laramie and shared their thoughts are the center of this remarkable work.  Staged plainly, with straight back chairs moved from side to center to side again the only props, the students manage to create a fully fleshed out world.  You can hear the wind.  You can feel Matt's fear.  You ache and cringe and writhe with each new character.

Add caption
Did you know that Angel Action was started as a response to the protesters at Matthew's funeral? Romaine Patterson, Matt's best friend, created big ass wings so that she and her companions could block the view.  Worried about the chants and epithets her volunteers would be close up against, she went out and bought earplugs.

That's the kind of social change I can get behind.

The play ran 2 hours and 40 minutes.  Initially, we were appalled.  It was high school theater, after all.  It could have been awful... slow... ponderous... miscued... un-lit... unintelligible.  Instead, we were sorry to see it end.  The standing ovation was generalized, not just parents and BFF's but strangers, as we were, there for an afternoon, with no particular allegiance to the school or the players.

No particular allegiance until now, that is.  


  1. I don't know if I could watch this play. What happened to Matthew Shepard is so utterly heartbreaking and to even think about it makes me cry. That young man did not deserve to be treated that way. Gosh, I cannot even write enough to get my head around it all. It's been several years and at times, I don't think we have progressed at all.

    Thanks for sharing the play with us too.

    Megan xxx

    1. You could sit there, Megan, because the reactions are so honest, and the points of view so fascinating, and the pain and suffering is below the surface but not intolerable. There is so much to learn... even if the sentencing phase did bring back some pretty painful emotions on my part.

    2. Ashleigh Burroughs, getting murdered does not mean omit ugly truths on who Metthew Wayne Shepard was. If the law had punished Harvey B. Milk for committing homosexual abuse on a 16 year old boy in 1964 (which he was not prosecuted for) & if the Wyoming legal system had given Methew Wayne Shepard years in prison rather than counseling by Natrona County Juvenile Court for molesting 2 boys when he was 15 years old, then Harvey B. Milk & Methew Wayne Shepard both would have avoided being murdered in 1978 & 1998. It'd been better if this had happened-Harvey B. Milk convicted of homosexual statutory rape in 1960s, does prison time & then spends rest of his days in a homeless shelter or his family taking care of him after he's released from prison. Harvey Bernard Milk was a despicable homosexual coward who in 1964 committed statutory rape on a teenage boy (the boy committed suicide in 1980) but H.B. Milk was never prosecuted for it. Harvey Bernard Milk should’ve been convicted & jailed for felony statutory rape in 1964 & lost his right to vote. Getting murdered in 1978 & 1998 does not change the truth that both Harvey B. Milk & Methew Wayne Shepard were gay pedophiles.

      I haven’t plead his 2 killers cases other than say that the 2nd man R.A. Henderson should have gotten a jury trial & a jury should have decided what to convict him on. Prosecutor could argue why it’s Murder 1, defense can argue why it’s lesser charge of 2nd Degree Murder or Manslaughter & then jury decides-that is as far as I go with his case is saying he should have gotten a jury trial. R.A. Henderson’s case should be reviewed again on appeal because he wanted a jury trial.

  2. Homosexual groups targetted gay journalist Stephen Jimenez for his Book of Matt which offended homosexual groups & have been trying to keep Stephen Jimenez’s Book of Matt from being sold. Honest discussion is discussing & rebutting-not censoring because 1 finds something offensive.Metthew Wayne Shepard (1976-1998) was not the innocent as he has been portrayed by Laramie Project or films like Shepard is a Friend of Mine. Metthew Wayne Shepard was a junky who assoc. with drug dealers in both Colorado & Wyoming, was possibly a drug dealer himself (Methew Wayne Shepard could also possibly have been a drug courier or a lookout, but whether or not he was a drug dealer he did assoc. with drug dealers) & when he was 15 years old, he was arrested for molesting 2 boys & he got counseling by Natrona County Juvenile Court for molesting 2 boys. Metthew Wayne Shepard had himself been a victim of child molestation by 3 different people when he was a boy & if he had not been a victim of homosexual pedophiles would he have turned out straight instead of gay?

  3. Let’s look @ what we do know about Methew W. Shepard. No matter why the murder happened, the idea that A.J. McKinney and Methew W. Shepard were strangers who did not know eachother until that day is rubbish. There are many witnesses-Doc O’ Connor’s ex girlfriend, Elaine Baker (bartender), M.K. Rohrbacher (drug dealer), Tristan (Ted) Henson (Methew W. Shepard’s former lover) & others who saw them together.

    There are too many witnesses who saw both men together. Of course the witnesses can only say they saw them together and can not know it all. It’s not believed Methew W. Shepard knew the 2nd man (R.A. Henderson) and I agree with Stephen Jimenez that Russell A. Henderson should have gotten a jury trial but got bad representation by his lawyers who urged him to take a plea when he wanted a jury trial. Book of Matt by Stephen Jimenez Stephen Jimenez’s evidence are 1st party witnesses he interviewed-over 100 of them over 13 years.

    Methew W. Shepard associating with drug dealers in both Wyoming and Colorado is not disputable. Methew W. Shepard went into bars where drugs were sold and he did associate with drug dealers-we know that he went to bars named Tornado, Ranger, Library & other bars in Wyoming and Colorado where drugs were sold. Methew W. Shepard’s friend Tina LaBrie expressing concerns about Methew W. Shepard’s drug and $ problems. We know that Methew W. Shepard was having $ problems (spending so much on limosuine rides in Doc O’ Connor’s limousine).

    Methew W. Shepard’s a junky (proven fact), drunkard and had money problems. Sheriff O’Malley has said that if Methew W. Shepard sold drugs, the cops would have known which is dishonest-Sheriff David S. O’Malley and Sgt. R.J. DeBree know cops don’t always catch all the criminals and that many drug dealers escape detection. Sheriff David S. O’Malley and Sgt. Robert J. DeBree have arrested drug dealers and they know how it’s the family and friends who get surprised after they learn some1 they know is a drug dealer.

    Sheriff David S. O’Malley and Sgt. Robert J. DeBree know that it’s unlikely MW. Shepard told his friends and family that he was a drug dealer, and even if Methew W. Shepard did tell his friends and family that he sold drugs, don’t think his family will admit this ugly as they had tried to hide the fact that Methew Wayne Shepard molested 8 year old boys and got counseling.

    Now was Methew W. Shepard’s assocation with drug dealers and going into bars where drugs were sold more than buying drugs ? Was Methew W. Shepard a drug dealer or a drug courier? Stephen Jimenez thinks so and he believes it was the Denver circle. No, Stephen Jimenez does not know it all but his conclusions are sincere and honest. While homosexual groups complain about Stephen Jimenez saying the murder case is complicated and possibly not a hate crime, that is incidental-main reason homosexual groups are offended by Stephen Jimenez’s book is because he talked about the ugly truths about who M.W. Shepard was. You don’t always know the secrets friends and family have. If a person is a drug dealer, then they are usually not going to tell their friends and family that they do this.

    Even if Metthew W. Shepard did tell his friends and family that he sold drugs, don’t think his family will admit this ugly truth about him, as they had tried to hide the fact that Methew Wayne Shepard molested 8 year old boys and got counseling for it. Laramie Project, Shepard Foundation & Big Island Chronicle Tiffany Camille Hunt sees nothing wrong with Methew W. Shepard selling drugs and molesting children so their view is rubbish.

  4. Sheriff David S. O’Malley, Cop Regina D. Fluty and Sgt. Rob J. DeBree’s portrayed in Laramie Project and Sheriff O’Malley is a friend of Judy L. Shepard. But their job as cops after to they found M.W. Shepard’s comatose body was to solve M.W. Shepard’s murder and they quickly found and arrested the 2 who did this. After that their job was to help prosecutors prove the 2 guilty of murder which they did. Since M.W. Shepard is dead, he can not be arrested and prosecuted for any crimes he committed before October 1998. I don’t believe the 2 cops investigated whether Methew W. Shepard was a drug dealer because there was no need.

    Sheriff David S. O’Malley, Regina D. Fluty and Sgt. Robert J. DeBree all know as cops or former cops that you don’t always know the secrets a person has. All know that most criminals try to keep their crimes secret esp. from friends and family as they don’t want to be caught.

    I don’t think Sheriff David S. O’Malley and Sgt. Robert J. DeBree are honest criticizing Stephen Jimenez as bias is meddling with facts especially again as Sheriff O’Malley is a friend of Judy Lynn Shepard. Both Sheriff David S. O’Malley and R.J. DeBree know as cops that they don’t always catch the criminals.

    Sheriff O'Malley & Undersheriff R.J. DeBree can talk of what they found in murder investigation-both men should only talk of the limits of what they found & the murder trial. Both men should say that they did not find in murder investigation proof that Methew W. Shepard was a drug dealer. They should only critique Stephen Jimenez's investigation on what they found in murder investigation because Stephen Jimenez found things which the court didn't know.

    I know what AJ McKinney said to cops, but that doesn't change the fact that both he & Methew W. Shepard knew eachother as proven by many witnesses. Rumors sometimes are true & the rumor AJ McKinney & Methew W. Sheapard knew eachother is true.

    You dont always know the secrets a person has in life & Methew W. Shepard had secrets which he kept from his friends & family-his assoc. with drug dealers which is proven. I think Dennis & Judy L. Shepard know this but hate what Stephen Jimenez found.

    Sheriff David S. O’Malley and Sgt. Robert J. DeBree know that it’s unlikely Methew W. Shepard told his friends and family that he was a drug dealer, because both have seen many times as cops as how criminals usually keep their crimes a secret esp. from their friends and family. M.W. Shepard kept it a secret. Even if Methew W. Shepard did tell his friends and family that he sold drugs, don’t think his family will admit this ugly truth about him, as they hide the fact that Methew Wayne Shepard molested 8 year old boys and got counseling for it.


Talk back to me! Word Verification is gone!