Story of Matthew Shepard inspires 'Laramie Project'

Moises Kaufman’s follow-up to his first play, “Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde,” will be “The Laramie Project,” named after the town in which gay U. of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was beaten and left to die on a country fence.

As with “Gross Indecency,” Kaufman has based his second play on testimony from actual transcripts. “That is the similarity,” said the playwright-director. “The difference is that I did all the research (for the Oscar Wilde play). This time it was the whole company,” he said of the Tectonic Theater Project, which produced the original 1997 production of “Gross Indecency” at the Greenwich House in New York City.

The 10-member Tectonic company made seven trips to Laramie, Wyo., to conduct over 200 interviews. They began their research a month after Shepard’s death and attended both trials of the student’s two assailants.

“It’s about the town but also what happened to us as the result of going there,” said Kaufman. “We spent every day in the courtroom with Shepard’s parents.” Kaufman said the Tectonic company kept the play “under wraps” until all interviews had been completed.

“The Laramie Project” receives its world premiere on Feb. 26 at the Ricketson Theater in Denver. The Denver Center Theater Co. will produce in association with the Tectonic Theater Project.

Kaufman looks to a New York City production of the play later in 2000. “Gross Indecency” ran for over 600 performances at the Minetta Lane Theater in Gotham.

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