On the Town

The Tectonic Theater Project Captures Matthew Shepard’s Laramie

Director Moisés Kaufman: The Laramie Project is an effort to create a historical document.
photo: Sylvia Plachy
Director Moisés Kaufman: The Laramie Project is an effort to create a historical document.

Even so, The Laramie Project's greatest effect so far has been emotional. Kaufman describes what happened to Laramie resident Jedediah Schultz. "He's a Baptist, and he's 19 years old. When we arrived, his views about homosexuality were very conservative. He'd say things like, 'My parents say it's wrong, I think it's a sin, I think it's bad.' " After a year of discussing Matthew Shepard's murder, however, Schultz began to challenge his parents' ideas and confront them. He got involved in a production of Angels in America. He became something of an activist. "Before we opened in Denver," Kaufman remembers, "Jedediah came to one of the rehearsals. As we're going through the play, we get to some of his text, and I look up to see him sobbing hysterically. So I stopped the rehearsal and went over and asked him, 'What, Jed, did we do something wrong? What's the matter?' And he tells me, 'I can't believe I said those things. I was part of the problem, wasn't I?' The Greeks believed that the reason to do theater is to achieve catharsis. When I read about it in school, I was like, 'Yeah, sure, catharsis.' Jedediah's reaction made me feel like our work was done."

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