On March 13, students in Windward’s Honors Advanced Theatre Ensemble put on an important, student-directed performance of The Laramie Project. A documentary-style devised theatre piece created from interviews conducted by members of the Tectonic Theater Project with the residents of Laramie, Wyoming in the wake of the savage beating of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay college student, The Laramie Project resonates today as an extraordinary example of theatre as advocacy, particularly in its support of LGBTQIA+ communities. The subject matter of the play raises awareness of the homophobia and heteronormativity that still permeates our culture today, and examines the themes of memory and regret, as well as the communal accountability and subjectivity in storytelling, as many different perspectives on the same historical event are examined and explored.
To better educate students and faculty on the importance of this story, Jordan Fox, Performing Arts Program Area Advisor: Theater invited members of the community (both at Windward and beyond) into class to share their experience and perspective. From dialogues with Windward faculty and the LGBTQIA+ affinity group, to a joint discussion regarding the oratorio “Considering Matthew Shepard'', students were provided important history and context as part of their exploration of this performance. Their research culminated with a powerful in-class conversation with Dennis Shepard, Matthew’s father, who spoke with the actors about The Laramie Project, his son, and the Matthew Shepard Foundation.
“The Laramie Project is a play that I have wanted to share with our Windward community for quite some time, and I knew that this was the group of student artists that should perform it,” said Jordan. “I am so proud of (student director) Hudson Janow’s direction and exploration in storytelling. I feel a great deal of pride for the actors in Honors Advanced Theatre Ensemble who worked so hard to bring this play to life. Working on this production opened dialogue and helped our actors learn to have empathy for people with fundamentally different perspectives than their own, which is one of the great powers of the theatre.”