The plays were created by Moises Kauffman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project in New York and explore the reaction and impacts of Matthew Shepard’s murder on the residents of Laramie, Wyoming. The Laramie Project premiered at The Ricketson Theatre at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in February 2000 and was performed in New York City, as well as a November 2002 performance in Laramie, Wyoming.
The Matthew Shepard Foundation’s Executive Director, Jason Marsden, wrote eloquently of the plays in his article “The Legacy of Matthew Shepard” for WyoHistory.org.
“A literary and theatric legacy, meanwhile, came from a band of playwrights and performers from New York City who were moved by the unfolding story of how a town responds to tragedy, controversy and worldwide media attention. The Laramie Project is a gripping tour through the actual spoken words of Laramie people drawn from hundreds of hours of interviews to show the outrage, the sense of being unfairly singled out, the quiet hope for change among gay and lesbian residents and the sometimes callous behavior of journalists. With the possible exception of the ongoing Wyoming State Archives collection of oral histories from those at the crime’s epicenter, the play, which is still widely performed, is the fullest extant record of the feelings and impressions of those who lived the story.
In the theatre company’s 2009 follow-up The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later, many characters extensively critique the local response, the spotlight the town endured, and in a real sense, one another. The dramatists clearly came to conclude that some who wished for a more open and accepting Laramie see signs of this, while others despair of it ever happening. Among those who yearn for a Laramie free of the crime’s stain, some found that happening. Others did not. Mythology and storytelling, one University of Wyoming folklorist and professor told the theater company, play as deep a role in the remembrance of history as do news reports and personal memories.”