The Laramie Project: A show about hope

Feature Photo By: Yucheng Zhang – A bench with a plaque memorializing the life of Matthew Shepard sits in Laramie, Wyoming. Rangeview theater students visited Laramie to visit sites like this before the show is performed this week. 

By: Connor Rodenbeck, Review Staff

On October 7th, 1998, a 21 year-old student at University of Wyoming was brutally attacked for being gay in Laramie, Wyoming. He later died from his wounds in a hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado on October 12. His name was Matthew Shepard.

The event that took place in Laramie has become widely considered as the most notorious anti-gay hate crime in American history. Rangeview High School’s Theater department is taking on this story in their next play, “The Laramie Project.”

This week, Rangeview’s own Advanced Performing Arts Drama (APA) is capturing this story in an unconventional way, many would say.

Chairs have been put on the stage for the audience to sit on in order to achieve a more intimate experience at the play. Tickets are on sale for $8 for adults, $7 for students without an activity card and $6 with an activity card. (Connor Rodenbeck) 

We have a completely different set up as to where the audience will sit,”says senior Maddie Heiken, Student Director and actor in the play. “I’ll keep the rest a secret; just know that it’s cool.”

Many involved in APA Drama feel a connection to this story. To get a better understanding of the community that Shepard lived in, they took a trip to Laramie at the beginning of fall break.

We visited the campus at the University of Wyoming, the bar Matthew was last seen at, and where Matthew was tied to a fence,” Heiken states. She highlights how this was a pivotal moment for her and the cast. “So many of us began to feel closer to Matthew and we knew that what we are doing — our performance — was important and means something.”

Usually, Rangeview takes on the task of performing comedies and musicals. This play is meant to be a dramatic portrayal of the aftermath of Shepard’s death.

Ryan Hill, theater teacher and director of this play, is excited to tell this story because he believes that it carries an important message about homophobia in society.

“There is a lot of work to do surrounding awareness and acceptance [of LGBTQ+ people] both in our community, and around the world,” Hill stated.

Many students in the play are passionate about this subject matter. Senior Kuleni Abdo is especially excited to perform.

“APA Drama has been putting in more effort than I’ve seen any other show do,” Abdo states. “It’s so important that we try and capture the same emotions [that the people involved] had during this time.”

Several people agree that Shepard’s story has had a major impact on the LGBTQ community. In fact, the Matthew Shepard Foundation was created with the goal of eliminating hate and celebrating Shepard. 

“He is the reason that people can now love openly,” Heiken says. “He is a symbol of hope and I think that’s something all of us could use right now.”

You can catch the Laramie Project on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night at 7pm. The prices are $8 for adults, $7 for student without an activity card and $6 with an activity card.