1. The Laramie Project is a play about the reaction to the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay student.
The play was written by members of the Tectonic Theater Project, who conducted hundreds of interviews with inhabitants of the town about the murder. It has often been performed in schools to raise awareness about gay rights and hate crimes.
2. The drama club at Ottumwa High School in Iowa was scheduled to perform this play in the upcoming school year.
3. The drama club proposed it because it presents an important message about bullying.
This student said, “I think this would be a great opportunity to have some discussions that are sometimes kept quiet in schools or in our community, and I think that by having this play be performed it would be great discussions of topic in the classroom.”
4. The play takes direct quotes from interviews — quotes that illuminate every day violence as well as the hate crime that happened.
FATHER ROGER SCHMIT: Don’t – don’t – don’t, um, (Pause) don’t make matters worse… you think violence is what they did to Matthew – they did do violence to Matthew – but, you know, every time that you are called a fag, or you are called a, you know, a lez or whatever…
LEIGH FONDAKOWSKI: Or a dyke.
FATHER ROGER SCHMIT: Dyke, yeah dyke. Do you realize that is violence? That is the seed of violence. And I would resent it immensely if you use anything I said, uh, you know, to – to somehow cultivate that kind of violence, even in its smallest form – I would resent it immensely. You need to know that.
5. However, the principal of the school is prohibiting the students to put on the play.
He told KTVO, “The play is too adult for a high school production, but it does preach a great message.”
6. This decision is not explicitly about the message of the play, but about “family friendliness.” The superintendent agrees:
7. The Laramie Project has been performed in many theaters. Below, you can see clips of the play at Zach Theater in Austin.
9. And here is another clip — from a high school production.
10. The show is often performed by high schools, in fact.
It’s helped raise awareness in many places. In the UK, actually, it is an official material for education for students aged 14-16.
12. The Drama Club isn’t taking no for an answer, though.
They’ve taken it to the community and to their parents. Drama Club secretary Jordan Young told the Ottumwa Courier, “If the administration sees it’s not just the theater department that wants to do it, if they’re not going to listen to the theater department, maybe they’ll listen to the other [community] people ready to … go to bat for us with the school board.”