The Connecticut Repertory Theatre accompanied its current run of “The Laramie Project” by hosting a stage reading of the play’s follow-up, “The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later,” at the Nafe Katter Theatre on Tuesday night.
“The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later” is about the town of Laramie, Wyoming, 10 years after the murder of Matthew Shepard and the changes that have occurred in the state and community as a result. The play is constructed from real interviews conducted in the town a decade later, resulting in precise portrayals developed from exact quotation and notes gathered in that time by the creators of the previous show.
“For me, it makes me think about life and situations in a different light,” said Melanie Phaneuf, a first-semester theatre studies major who attended the reading.
Gripping moments during the narrative show the effects of Shepard’s murder on several characters. Notably, his parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, who were portrayed respectively by Josh McCabe, a professional actor from Shakespeare and Company and Madison Coppola, a seventh-semester acting major.
The character of Judy Shepard, who does not appear in the original show, stands out as one of the most interesting in this production. “10 Years Later” ultimately expresses Judy Shepard’s struggles during the ten years following her son’s death.
“It was a good show,” said Katherine Dole, a first-semester theatre studies major. “I am going to see ‘The Laramie Project’ at least two more times [now]. Seeing this made me see certain characters in ‘The Laramie Project’ differently.”
According to “10 Years Later” legislative and communal changes occurred in the town of Laramie. In addition, media outlets inconsistently portrayed Shepard’s murder as an armed robbery in lieu of a hate crime. However, the truth of the latter remained.
From the knock down of Resolution 17 in the Wyoming State Legislature, to President Obama signing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009 with Judy Shepard by his side, “The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later” shows its audiences the evolution of a community and elicits a sense of hope and healing that the world needs.
The reading touched several members of the audience in light of recent events, such as last month’s shooting at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. On a more personal level, the reading reminded audience members that being a good individual can have a positive impact on the world.
“I thought it was a great show. With issues like this, it’s important for me to remember to do unto others as they would do to you,” said Susan Chvirk, a resident of Coventry.
Matthew Gilbert is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.