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2022 Spring 1 Production

The Laramie Project


In October 1998, a twenty-one-year-old student at the University of Wyoming was kidnapped, severely beaten, and left tied to a fence in the middle of the prairie outside Laramie, Wyoming. His bloody, bruised, and battered body was not discovered until the next day, and he died several days later in an area hospital. His name was Matthew Shepard, and he was the victim of this assault because he was gay. Moisés Kaufman and fellow members of the Tectonic Theater Project made six trips to Laramie over the course of a year and a half, in the aftermath of the beating and during the trial of the two young men accused of killing Shepard. They conducted more than 200 interviews with the people of the town. Some people interviewed were directly connected to the case, while others were citizens of Laramie, and the breadth of the reactions to the crime is fascinating. Kaufman and Tectonic Theater members have constructed a deeply moving theatrical experience from these interviews and their own experiences in Laramie. THE LARAMIE PROJECT is a breathtaking collage that explores the depths to which humanity can sink and the heights of compassion of which we are capable.

Full Program


  • ZOEY BUSTOS as Leigh Fondakowski, Aaron Kreifels, Alison Mears, Jen, Romaine Patterson, Zackie Salmon, Newsperson & Narrator
  • RONNIE DUSKA FOWLER as Barbara Pitts, Baptist Minister's Wife, Judge #1, Rebecca Hilliker, Reggie Fluty, Shadow, Sherry Aananson, Newsperson & Narrator
  • NOAH GALVAN as Greg Pierotti, Email Writer, Father Roger Schmit, Jonas Slonaker, Rob DeBree, Rulon Stacey, Sergeant Hing & Narrator
  • CATHERINE GRAY as Amanda Gronich, Eileen Engen, Jury Foreperson, Lucy Thompson, Marge Murray, Newsperson, Trish Steger, Waitress, Zubaida Ula & Narrator
  • JACKSON HARVILLE as Andy Paris, Aaron McKinney, Doug Laws, Jedadiah Schultz, Jeffrey Lockwood, Kerry Drake, Matt Mickelson, Russell Henderson, Newsperson & Narrator
  • KHAJA MASSOUD as a Tectonic Company Member, Bailiff, Gil Engren, Phil Labrie, Newsperson & Narrator
  • MATT MATSON as Stephen Belber, Andrew Gomez, Bill McKinney, Conrad Miller, Dennis Shepard, Doc O'Connor, Matt Galloway, Catholic Priest & Narrator
  • ANGUS MCNAY as Moisés Kaufman, Harry Woods, Jon Peacock, Mormon Home Teacher, Murdock Cooper, Reverend Fred Phelps, Stephen Mead Johnson & Narrator
  • SIERRA SMERNES as a Tectonic Company Member, April Silva, Catherine Connolly, Judge #2, Kristin Price, Shannon, Sherry Johnson, Tiffany Edwards & Narrator
  • CHRISTIAN VANG as a Tectonic Company Member, Anonymous Friend of Aaron McKinney, Baptist Minister, Cal Rerucha, ER Dr. Cantway, Gov. Jim Geringer, Philip Dubois & Narrator

Artistic Staff:

  • DIRECTOR - Peter Mohrmann
  • SCENIC DESIGNER - Shawn Weinsheink
  • COSTUME DESIGNER - Nicole Sivell
  • LIGHTING DESIGNER - Shawn Weinsheink
  • SOUND DESIGNER - Scott Bailey
  • MEDIA DIRECTOR - Matthew K. Miller
  • PROJECTION DESIGNER - Shawn Weinsheink
  • ASSISTANT DIRECTOR - Luther Hanson
  • AUDIO CONSULTANT - Kirt Shearer

Production Staff:

  • DTECHNICAL DIRECTOR - Shawn Weinsheink
  • STAGE MANAGER - Emmy Harmon
  • SOUND BOARD OPERATOR - Natalie Smith
  • CAMERA OPERATORS - Micelle Patterson, Nataly Velasco & Drew Wooley
  • SOUND ALTERNATE - Veronica DeAngelo
  • CREW ALTERNATE - Collins Vincent
  • SET CONSTRUCTION & LIGHTING CREW - Shawn Weinsheink, Scott Bailey, TA420 & TA424
  • COSTUME SHOP MANAGER - Nicole Sivell
  • COSTUME ASSISTANT - Isabel Melchor

Dramaturg's Notes and Resources:

Dramaturg’s Notes

On October 7, 1998, Matthew Shepard, a gay college student, was kidnapped, brutally beaten, and left tied to a fence on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming. While Matthew lay in a coma, the tragedy became world news. On October 12, Matthew died from his injuries without regaining consciousness. Vigils and protests were held across the United States.

Nearly 1,800 miles from Laramie, a New York City-based theater company watched the story unfold, with some of its members taking part in a protest. Tectonic Theater Project was founded by husbands Moisés Kaufman and Jeffrey LaHoste in 1991, and in 1998 the company’s play Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde was enjoying a successful run Off Broadway. As they watched the news, members of Tectonic wondered what it was about Matthew Shepard and Laramie that grabbed the world’s attention in a year when more than 1,000 anti-gay crimes were reported in the United States. What would they find in this town, and what would it say about our country, our world, as a whole?

Barely a month after Matthew’s death, ten company members arrived in Wyoming to find out. They were initially wary of Laramie and agreed on safety rules before their arrival. No one would work alone, and everyone would carry a cellphone, which was rare in 1998. As they got to know the town, however, the company began to relax. Most had never conducted interviews before, but this turned out to be an advantage. By learning as they went along, the group found their own interviewing style and got to know the people of Laramie.

The company would make multiple trips back to Wyoming; their last trip coincided with the end of the last murder trial in Matthew’s case. Back in New York, Tectonic transcribed interviews and used their Moment Work technique to transform the interviews into a play. On February 26, 2000, The Laramie Project premiered at the Denver Center Theatre Company; it was transferred to the Union Square Theatre in New York City later that year. Then, in November 2000, just over two years after Matthew’s death, The Laramie Project was performed in Laramie, Wyoming.

Much has changed since 1998. Matthew’s family founded the Matthew Shepard Foundation, and Matthew’s mother, Judy Shepard, travels across the country advocating for acceptance and an end to hate crimes. In 2009, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed into law.

In 1998, Matthew Shepard couldn’t legally marry or serve in the military as an openly gay man. In 2011, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed, allowing openly gay people to serve in the military. Then, in 2015, same-sex marriage became legal in all 50 states. While we have taken tremendous steps forward since Matthew’s death, there is still a great deal of work to be done. In 2020, the FBI reported 1,110 hate crimes against gay people. And according to the Trevor Project, “LGBTQ youth are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers.” To learn more, including ways to fight intolerance and provide safe spaces, please visit our resource page.

Back in Laramie, there is now a memorial bench dedicated to Matthew on the University of Wyoming campus, though the fence he was tied to has long since been torn down. At the bench, visitors can pay their respects; some leave flowers and colorful ribbons. Matthew’s college friend, Romaine Patterson, is an activist whose website includes a downloadable Angel Action kit. Catherine Connolly, who was also interviewed for The Laramie Project, became the first openly gay member of the Wyoming House of Representatives in 2008.

Tectonic Theater Project continues to create and produce plays, including Here There Are Blueberries and Uncommon Sense. The Laramie Project has been performed for more than 30 million audience members; there is a movie adaptation from HBO as well. In 2008, members of the company went back to Laramie to create The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later. In 2016, founder Moisés Kaufman accepted the 2015 National Medal of Arts.

But for now, we are back in 1998. Whether this is your first time in Laramie or your twentieth, I ask you to put aside any assumptions and consider this quote from Tectonic’s website: “The people of Laramie are our teachers.” These teachers will make you laugh and make you cry. They will make you thoughtful, angry, grateful - sometimes all at once. More than anything, they will be familiar: Most of us know a town like Laramie, and we can all see our friends, our neighbors, and ourselves in its people. What will Laramie teach us about our community - about ourselves - today? Let us find out.

Resources for further information