Alone. Bruised and beaten. Tied to a fence in the middle of a field in Laramie, Wyo. Matthew Shepard, 21, just wanted to live his life as an openly gay man.
His beating made world news. Church groups did not accept Shepard’s lifestyle choice, while others in the community wanted to let the world know that violence and hatred like this would not be tolerated.
Now Dancyn Productions in Oshawa is performing The Laramie Project at Dnipro Hall. The play focuses on the reaction of Laramie to the brutal attack that resulted in the death of this young man.
“I was a young gay teenager at the time so it really affected me,” says cast member Kyle Robertson. “It’s such a tragic story and it really hit home to young gay teenagers, especially around that time.”
The cast and crew are aware of the current political climate, although it did not factor into producing this play, says Joan Mansfield, artistic director of The Laramie Project. The play was already in production when Trump made his immigration order to ban people from certain predominantly Muslim countries.
Mansfield chose the play because she says it sends a strong message of acceptance.
“I tend to learn towards things that send a message out there. I’m very conscious of what’s going on in the world and spreading the world to correct things that are so wrong,” says Mansfield.
The play is a unique experience for cast members who play as many as five different characters with various accents.
The Laramie Project has been performed in the U.S. where some church groups have picketed the performances and staged protests. The cast and crew in Oshawa does not see this being an issue. Many are part of church groups themselves and say there is no hostility here towards the play.
Mansfield has high hopes for the production.
“I want people to think. They need to leave the theatre thinking. Does it change someone’s mind and opinion? Good. Then I’ve done my job,” she says.
The Laramie Project is onstage at Dnipro Hall in Oshawa from February 22 to March 5.