Students present poignant play highlighting homophobia and a turning point in US hate crime laws

University of Chester students are presenting two live-streamed performances of a deeply moving play highlighting homophobia, the depths to which humanity can sink and the heights of compassion of which people are capable.

Third year Music, Media and Performance Department students have created the online performances of The Laramie Project as part of their Final Production.

The Laramie Project explores the fatal homophobic assault of Matthew Shepard, a 22-year-old student at the University of Wyoming in 1998, the community’s reactions to the horrific crime, and how it was a turning point in hate crime legislation in America.

Moisés Kaufman and fellow members of the Tectonic Theater Project (sic) made six trips to Laramie over the course of a year and a half in the aftermath of the murder and during the trial of the two young men accused of killing Matthew. They conducted more than 200 interviews with the people of the town, forming the basis of the play.

Taking place during LGBT+ History Month, the performances will be presented on Friday February 26, at 1pm and 3pm.

Dr Pamela Barnes, Programme Leader for BA Acting, BA Drama (and Theatre Studies) said: “Our extremely talented third year students have created online performances of The Laramie Project as part of their Final Production.

“During lockdown they have not stopped and have worked harder than ever to bring these live performances straight to you, to watch from the comfort of your own home.

“The play contains themes that some audience members may find upsetting. However, it is a subject that should be talked about and Kaufman and Tectonic Theater members have constructed a poignant and thought-provoking theatrical experience from the interviews and their own experiences which we are very proud to present.”

Victoria MacDonald, third year Drama and Theatre Studies student, said: “The Laramie Project is based on several interviews held by the Tectonic Theater Company so transitioning from theatre to screen is a compelling reimagining of the play; almost as if we are creating a reconstruction of the original, organic interviews.

“The story translates well to screen as it is already a film, so after a few acting adjustments for screen, we are as ready as ever to bring The Laramie Project as our third year production.”

Kirsty Upton, third year Acting student added: “Converting the play into an online performance has definitely had its difficulties. However, we have not allowed the pandemic to limit our creativity and passion for performing. It has been incredibly uplifting to be a part of a play that represents a new age of virtual performance.”

Live Question and Answer sessions with some of the students will be shared on the University of Chester Music, Media and Performance Department Instagram page, @uoc_arts, this week, leading up to the production.

Tickets for the play, recommended for ages 14 years old and above, are £5 and can be booked at: https://bit.ly/3ptNppz.