The Laramie County Community College theater program will be performing “The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later” as their Fall 2017 play in mid-November.
“Ten Years Later” is a sequel to the original play that premiered in 2000, “The Laramie Project,” written by Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project. The original Laramie Project explored the reaction to the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old, openly gay University of Wyoming student. The murder was considered a hate crime, bringing attention to the lack of hate crime laws in a variety of states at the time, including Wyoming.
The play’s dialogue is entirely composed of real interviews with Laramie residents, news reports, journal entries, etc., arranged dramatically in scenes — “Ten Years Later” follows this same structure. The playwrights who wrote the original play returned to Laramie 10 years after Shepard’s death to see how the community was dealing with the fallout from the murder. Interviews from perpetrators Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, who were arrested and charged with first degree murder following Shepard’s death, were not highlighted in the original play, but are in Ten Years Later.
According to Jason Pasqua, LCCC theater instructor and the play’s director, LCCC’s theater program performed the original Laramie Project in fall of 2005.
“The main thing that emerges from this play is their discovery of what most people in Wyoming, certainly in Cheyenne, will know,” Pasqua said. “Over the past 10 years, this counter-narrative has emerged… that it was a drug deal gone bad, and that it wasn’t about Matthew’s sexuality that led to his murder.”
Pasqua added that over the course of composing “Ten Years Later,” the playwrights disprove the idea of using the killer’s own words. Pasqua said he believes both are plays that theater students should be exposed to, because they are “notable plays in terms of their structure.”
Pasqua added that the event of Shepard’s murder was long enough ago that there are young people who don’t know the full story of what happened. The theater program held auditions for the play within the first week of the fall 2017 semester, and decided on the cast during that same week.
“There’s something like 50 individual characters in the play, but there are 11 actors, which means that actors are playing multiple characters — in some cases, seven or eight,” Pasqua said. “It’s structured in such a way that it can be very challenging… It can challenge the audience in a really cool way, and challenge the students as well when they are responsible for realistically rendering multiple characters across an evening.”
Theater student and actor in the play Charles Detheridge said he believes they are doing very well as far as progress with the production.
“This being my first play where I play not just one major role, but five to seven, I thought there would be more difficulty wrapping my mind around the characters as well as what I need to do as an actor to get my message across, but so far, we’ve already done Act I and we’re almost done with Act II,” Detheridge said.
Detheridge has been working with Pasqua for several semesters, and said he’s built a great relationship with him throughout that time.
“Jason is a very open person with approach, and I think that’s great not just as a director, but as a teacher as well,” Detheridge said. “As an aspiring actor, I’m trying to figure out what to do and how to do it. Jason is a director that knows what he wants, but doesn’t know what he wants, but that helps us figure it out together.”
“The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later” is presented Nov. 9 through Nov. 11 and Nov. 16 through Nov. 18 starting at 7:30 p.m. each day at the LCCC Playhouse. Tickets cost $10 per person for the general public, but will be free for LCCC students.