Andrew Shaw: Laramie, Ten Years Later
MCV's cover story this week is an interview with the director of The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later, the play coming to the Arts Centre this month. It’s not the most imaginative of titles, but if it sounds analytical, more like the title of a science experiment, then that’s appropriate.
The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later is a sequel to The Laramie Project, a play based on interviews conducted with the real residents of Laramie, Wyoming, the town where gay student Matthew Shepard was tortured and left for dead in 1998.
His death was regarded as a gay hate crime, and the town suddenly became the focus of international attention – an example of all that was wrong with mid-west America.
A theatre group created The Laramie Project out of the interviews, dramatising what the townsfolk said about Matthew Shepard’s death, revealing their attitudes towards gay people and whether Laramie was, as many claimed, a good and safe place to live.
In Ten Years Later there’s been some repositioning among the people of Laramie about what really occurred in 1998. Was it a gay hate crime or just a simple robbery gone wrong? Was Laramie different to other towns in America or was it intrinsically ‘bad’?
Gary Abrahams, director of Ten Years Later, says that in the play some of the residents of Laramie want to put the incident behind them and move on, while others wanted to keep the memory of the horror alive.
The playwrights also interviewed the two men who killed Shepard, which was not possible in 1998. “They weren’t necessarily confessing that it was motivated by the hatred of gays,” Abrahams says. “It was as if they found themselves starting to believe some of the people who were saying it wasn’t a hate crime and taking that as their own argument.”
Elsewhere this week, and on a much more light-hearted note, we talk with musician Jade Leonard, who you would have seen around town, whether tinkling the ivories at MQFF opening nights, or playing at venues. She’s about to launch a video for her cheeky new dance single, ‘8008135’, in praise of a particular body part.
I also got to interview a horse’s behind this week: Ian Piears was in town as one of the three puppeteers who animates Joey, the star of the stage show War Horse, which has played to packed houses overseas. Ian talks about what it’s like performing for two hours inside Joey, and some of the people who have come to see the play, including the Queen and the Fonz!