WATERFORDrama Revisits the Legacy of Matthew Shepard 20 Years Following his Death

Phi Kasem-Beg

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On October 6, 1998, in a small town like Waterford, Matthew Shepard was beaten, tied to a fence, and left to die because of his sexual orientation. Shepard’s death sparked conversation on the treatment of the LGBT community across the country. In response to the nationwide coverage the small town of Laramie experienced following this hate crime, Moisés Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Project wrote and produced the play The Laramie Project. In honor of the 20th anniversary of Shepard’s death, WATERFORDrama plans to put on the production for a third time.

In The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later, the Tectonic Theater Project revisited the small town of Laramie to conduct further investigation on how the town was impacted by its widespread media coverage. The play revisits individuals depicted in the first production, while also including two new interviews with the men who murdered Shepard.

WATERFORDrama’s director, Shane Valle, is familiar with both productions. Valle has previously produced and directed The Laramie Project and The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later in 2006 at Waterford High School, followed by a repeat of the performances in 2013, which featured WATERFORDrama alumni along with several students. In the Fall of 2018, Valle decided to revisit the two productions with a staged reading of both plays on two separate nights. When asked why he wanted to produce the show again, Valle said, “I knew I wanted to tell the story again for people who may not know the story. Many students are not aware of who Matthew Shepard is and what he represents for both Americans and members of the LGBT community.”

Although these performances stray from the typical WATERFORDrama production since they’re only staged readings, the main message remains highly important. When asked why Valle did not turn these readings into full productions, he stated, “These staged readings aren’t like the usual large-scale productions we usually do. It’s not about the production value of these shows, it’s about the story being heard again. It’s important that the world knows Matthew’s story.”

WATERFORDrama Alumni, Andrew Guay and Noah Todd in WATERFORDrama’s 2013 performance of “The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later”.

In this year’s production, Valle decided to cast alumni, students, and teachers to the cast: “I thought that would bring more of a cohesive feel to the entire production. By bringing back both past students and including teachers, it brings a sense of unity and awareness to the Waterford community.”

A Waterford High School student and president of WATERFORDrama’s National Thespian Society troupe, Dominic Brunaccioni, was asked to participate in this year’s reading of The Laramie Project. When asked what he was most looking forward to for this production, Brunaccioni described that “This play has so much emotional weight and significance both to the town Laramie itself but also to Waterford. We have done both full length productions twice before, and I am honored to be a part of this staged reading as it honors the life and legacy of Matthew Shepard and WATERFORDrama’s past.”

Murphy Ryan, a Waterford High School Sophomore, is also cast in the staged reading of The Laramie Project and The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later. Ryan, when asked how she would think her peers would react to these productions, stated that “It would be a positive reaction. In our community, being gay is widely accepted compared to other areas of the country. This show will show a different perspective on different morals that other Americans hold in this day and age.” In previous years, the production of the play at Waterford High School had sparked backlash from local residents. Although

Waterford’s community is more widely accepting of individuals who identify as LGBT, other areas of America and around the world hold far less tolerance for members of this community.

The 2013 cast of “The Laramie Project” and “The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later” perform the candlelight vigil memory.

The staged reading of The Laramie Project will take placed on Friday, October 12th. On the following Saturday, October 13th, The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later will be performed. Both shows begin at 7:00 in the Waterford High School Auditorium. An adult ticket for both performances is $15 and student tickets are $10. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Matthew Shepard Foundation, a nonprofit LGBT organization that runs education and advocacy programs for LGBT youth. Tickets officially go on sale at Waterford High School during school hours on October 1st or can be reserved by calling 860-437-6956 x. 7407 at any time.

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About the Writer
Phi Kasem-Beg, Staff

Phi Kasem-Beg is a senior participating in her first year of journalism. She enjoys taking long walks on the beach, kombucha and chill, and criticizing capitalism. In the fall she swims on the Waterford Girl’s Swim Team, and she acts in WATERFORDrama productions. Outside of school she enjoys creating art and watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (streaming on Hulu now).

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