Sunday, February 21, 2016

Director’s Notes for The Laramie Project

Detail of The Laramie Project set. Photo by Toni Carosella.
"Drive west from Bloomsburg on I-80 for 1,636 miles, and you'll arrive in Laramie, WY. Both are small towns of long-time residents, situated among a rural landscape; both are home to a university attracting out-of-towners; both possess an All-American mix of blue and white collar jobs. And both have gay residents. I'm sure many of the straight members in today's audience are accepting of our fellow citizens who are gay. Others in the audience, though, may find the presence of gays in Bloomsburg troubling, or sinful. In that regard, American society today retains a similarity to 1998-2000, the time of Matthew Shepard's murder and the writing of The Laramie Project. In the nearly 20 years since then, has anything changed? Has there been progress in the struggle for acceptance of, and civil rights for, gays and lesbians?

Certainly on the legal front one could point to the federal Matthew Shepard & James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (2009), the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (2011), and the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same sex marriage (2015), and give a qualified “Yes!” But hate crime and discrimination legislation on the state (including Pennsylvania and Wyoming) and local levels are woefully lacking; and when it comes to the hearts and minds of average Americans, there is still work to be done. Just recall the Kentucky county clerk who refused to grant same sex marriage because of “religious freedom”, or local businesses nationwide who deny service to gays and lesbians. This reveals how fragile and misunderstood the LGBTQ movement is in America, not to mention the violence done to gays outside our country, in Africa, Russia and elsewhere.

The Laramie Project examines these questions as two communities –the Laramie residents and the members of the Tectonic Theatre Project from New York- learn about themselves and each other in response to the brutal murder of Matthew. Now drive east on I-80 for 1,636 miles and check out Bloomsburg. Should a hate murder occur in our community, how would we respond? With examination, or a cover-up? With outrage, or harassment? These questions keep The Laramie Project from being a period piece. Its enduring relevancy is a call for vigilance against hate. Healing and progress are possible."

- Jim Goode, Director of The Laramie Project 

BU Players' production of The Laramie Project runs February 24 through 28. Days and times, as well as ticket information, at

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