Next month, the Academy of Creative Training brings The Laramie Project to Brighton, 15 years after the murder of Matthew Shepard. We speak to Kordian, Paolo and Sarah about the groundbreaking show and why it’s still so important so many years on.

What is The Laramie Project about
Kordian: The Laramie project is about the killing of a young boy in a rural town called Laramie. The boy’s name was Matthew Shepard and it is believed that he was killed because of his sexuality. The Laramie Project is an interview- style play where a theatre company called ‘The Tectonic Theatre Company’ run by Moises Kaufman travels to Laramie over the course of two years to talk to Matthew’s close friends, family and the residents of Laramie, Wyoming. The play is a collection of interviews that have been put together in such a way that it gives the audience a chronological image and structure of the run up to the killing, the brutal murder itself and the aftermath.
Sarah: The Laramie Project is a true story about the aftermath of a hate crime. An unprovoked gay beating.
The events in the play are real versions of events. When you watch the play you are listening to what are the real words of the townsfolk.
The style and form of the play is ‘epic theatre.’ which means everything is kept as real as it was as much as possible, even the words. It is like being a ‘fly on the wall’ or watching a documentary

Paolo: The Laramie Project is about people, is about us. Is about your home town and its people, from the neighbour who asks you for glass of milk to the police officer who gave you a ticket for having parked your car on double yellow line.

Do you think that the Laramie Project will resonate with the UK public?
K: I hope that this play will stay with the people who come to see it and I hope that they will pass on their thoughts and feelings about the play and about the major issues that are still prominent within our society.
S: Absolutely. The play is about hate crimes and there are many worldwide motivated by sexuality, beliefs, what people look like. The list goes on !
I think the play will resonate with any parent as well. I am a mother of a five year old boy. I cannot imagine what the parents of Matthew went through. In fact you hear his Father’s actual words at the end of the play when he is in court making a statement. I will be very surprised if there are dry eyes at the end of show !

P: I believe it will, it’s a play for everybody and so whether you agree with the general moral of the play or not it is a great piece of entertainment worth watching, it will make you think and feel. Brits love that 😉

Why is it such a powerful story?
K: A young man was killed by two other boys who were the same age as him and knew him. There are murders every day of this kind and worse. The ‘story’ is not important, the act itself is the most important thing, we are doing terrible things on a day to day basis and the killing of Matthew Shepard was one of many.
P: Because you are taken on a journey with the people of this small Wyoming town, Laramie, feel love with them, feel anger, sadness and joy with them; you will laugh and cry and that’s why the Laramie project is such a powerful story.
Why is it important to do a play like the Laramie Project?
P: Like Moises Kaufman once said, this wasn’t the only hate crime ever committed in America, or in the entire world, but the Tectonic Theatre Project chose this particular tragic event. It got involved in so many different aspects and changed so many lives, starting from the people who were involved, the people of Laramie, and consequently the whole nation because of Fred Phelps and the media etcetera … that it had to be told. People had to know. Not only because hate crime is wrong, but people had to understand and still have to understand how the death of one person can affect other’s lives, minds and beliefs.

What’s the most touching thing about the film and play?
K: The fact that what’s written in the play is the complete truth. People aren’t going to be sitting in the theatre thinking ‘ blah, blah, blah, lines, lines, lines’, they will be (hopefully) listening closely to what’s being said because what’s being said is what real people have said after a horrific event that shook their town. That is the most touching and important aspect of the play I believe.

S: The play : Dennis Shepard’s (Matthew’s father) court room speech. He advocates life to the people that have murdered his son, against his gut feeling.

What is touching about both Matthew Shepherd’s parents is that they have fought endlessly since Matthew’s death to stop hate crimes and to stop prejudices about gay people, with people like Ellen de Generes and Elton John. And in April 2013, Barack Obama passed a hate crime bill with Judy Shepherd (Matthew’s Mother.)

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P: You’ll have to come and see it so YOU can tell us what that is!

Does the film and play differ?
S: We make sure, as actors we don’t watch the films associated with any of our productions as we don’t want to copy or emulate any parts. We gather the source material ourselves and make our own versions of the characters.

Do you think the minds of people like the Westboro Baptist Church will ever be changed?
K: No. They will only ever struggle with their own beliefs and the conflicts created by them and those who oppose them will push them further into believing whatever it is they believe.

S: Some people when they have their minds made up, there is nothing you can do to change it. It is just very sad to see that there are people in this world that are so full of hate.
Fred Phelps hates Jews, Catholics, he hates Barack Obama.
But underneath it all, he hates himself the most.

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P: I don’t think it will. I don’t expect them to change their beliefs anyway. It’s their religion and they are free to believe in what they want. What I hope is that they understand we have our beliefs too and there are no reasons why they should hate us because of that. That is unnecessary.

The Laramie Project is in Brighton at the Nightingale Theatre Brighton

Dates: 14th- 18th December 2013, nightly at 8pm
Where: Nightingale Theatre Brighton BN1 3PA
Tickets: £10.50/8.50
Buy online: www.actbrighton/whatson.php
Phone: 01273 818266

About the author: Jake Hook
The editor and chief of THEGAYUK. All in a previous life wrote and produced songs on multi-platinum records.