Credit: Lawrence Oliver Brown

On October 12, 1998, Matthew Shepard died as the result of a brutal beating
by two young men he met at a bar in Laramie, Wyoming, where he was a
student at the University of Wyoming. All three—the gay victim and his
straight killers—were just 21 years old. Shepard’s shocking murder, heavily
and controversially covered by the media at the time, led to the passage of
federal hate crimes legislation in October 2009 and is a signal event in
the history of the struggle for LGBTQ rights in America.

In the months following Shepard’s death, director-playwright Moises Kaufman
and members of New York’s Tectonic Theater Project visited Laramie to
interview the townspeople. The result was The Laramie Project, a
2000 docudrama that juxtaposes the facts of the Shepard case with the
Tectonic ensemble’s own evolving perspectives on small-town America. The
actors in the Aleatoric Theatre Company’s intimate, bare-bones production
play multiple roles—portraying the original Tectonic company members as
well as the folks they talked with.

Under Nicholas Ryan Lamb’s direction, The Laramie Project charts
an evolution of awareness that helps Matt Shepard’s ordeal serve as a
pathway to redemptive compassion. The play climaxes with Shepard’s father’s
anguished decision to request a life sentence, not the death penalty, for
his son’s killers. This is complex, multilayered epic storytelling theater
in the Brechtian mold—but in Aleatoric’s simple, honest rendition, it’s
deeply moving in a way one doesn’t associate with Brecht.   v