Arts and Culture / Magazine Feature

DU joins theaters to commemorate death of Matthew Shepard

It’s been 11 years since gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was lured from a Laramie bar, severely beaten, tied to a fence and left for dead. It’s a sad anniversary, but it’s one the New York-based Tectonic Theater Project thought was worth recognizing.

The company already has paid tribute to Shepard with its 2000 off-Broadway production The Laramie Project, and for a follow-up, some of its members have written The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later, an epilogue to the original piece that will be performed simultaneously in theaters around the world — including DU’s Newman Center — on Oct. 12, the anniversary of Shepard’s death. Tickets are free to DU students, faculty and staff with a valid Pioneer Card.

“I thought it was particularly important because most of the students who are [at DU] now were roughly 10 years old when Matthew was killed, and only a little bit older when the original Laramie Project came out,” says Steve Seifert, executive director of the Newman Center. “It’s an opportunity to use a performing-arts event to raise people’s awareness about an important tragic event that happened in our own neighborhood but maybe because of their youth a lot of students don’t really have that much awareness of.”

At DU, the stand-alone epilogue will be performed as a staged reading, with local luminaries including DU Provost Gregg Kvistad, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, Denver Post theater critic John Moore and 9News entertainment reporter Kirk Montgomery joining DU faculty and staff and Denver-area stage actors to read the parts. Thomas Howard, director of programs for the Matthew Shepard Foundation in Denver, will lead a question-and-answer session with performers and audience after the reading.

“We wanted to make it not only for the community but also by the community in the sense that we didn’t want to just have professional actors on stage,” Seifert says. “We  wanted to show that art, especially art dealing with important social or civic issues, can be created by citizens. I find it really exciting that this performance can engage the community not just as observers but as actual participants.”

The DU performance will be preceded by a same-day video from the welcoming ceremony before the Tectonic performance in New York featuring appearances by Shepard’s mother, Judy Shepard, and actress Glenn Close.

The original Laramie Project — which eventually became an HBO film — was based on interviews the Tectonic crew conducted on location with the citizens of Laramie; for the epilogue, the writers returned to see what had changed in the town over the past 10 years. The epilogue includes new interviews with Matthew Shepard’s murderer, Aaron McKinney, as well as Judy Shepard, who recently published a book, The Meaning of Matthew: My Son’s Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed, about her ordeal.

“I think one of the most surprising developments for all of us was how the narrative is being told now of what happened that night,” says Tectonic member and epilogue co-writer Greg Pierotti, who also worked on the original Laramie Project. “There are a lot of different versions and some of them are true and some of them are just not. It’s pretty stunning, some of it.”

Tickets to The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later are available at the Newman Center box office. Visit for more information.

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