According to Kaufman, the Sundance people are very accommodating. Make that extremely accommodating when it came to the play he wrote with the Tectonic Theater Project. Based on the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, “The Laramie Project” came to Sundance in 1999 after the members of the Tectonic troupe had already conducted more than 200 interviews with the citizens of the Wyoming town where the young man was gay-bashed to death.
Initially, Kaufman alone was invited to attend the theater lab. “Which wouldn’t work,” says the playwright-director, who insisted the whole theater company had to be there. “And so they invited all 12 of us to the lab, which is highly unusual.”
As Kaufman recalls, “We went to Sundance with a lot of material. But we had written less than one act.”
After three weeks at the lab, Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Project held a reading of “The Laramie Project” there. “We already had a rough draft of the first two acts,” he notes.
Like many alums of the legit lab, Kaufman finds the one day on/one day off formula particularly effective. “Your subconscious works on that day off,” he says. “It is nourishing.”
“The Laramie Project” had its Off Broadway debut in 2000. The following year, Kaufman worked on the script for the film version at the Sundance screenwriting lab, which led to the HBO adaptation of “The Laramie Project,” aired in 2002. More recently, he and the Tectonic crew developed an untitled play about Beethoven at the institute.