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Laramie 2003 and 2007

The first staged reading of the show in New York was at the Drama Book Shop in October, 2003, titled "The Laramie Project-Five Years After", which included none other than the REAL Romaine Patterson, reading her own role, along with others, presented by BackHouse Theatre, produced by Patrick Hinds and directed by Thomas Kail. Seven or eight readers behind music stands in the Arthur Seelen Theatre; it's in the Book Shop basement on 40th Street in Manhattan.

Not only did I get to sit in the first row, I met some HS grads who'd done the show [one I remember was from Claremont HS in CA, then at Marymount Manhattan as a freshman theatre major]. In addition to personally meeting Romaine, I bid on her annotated reading script and won the auction, sent it as a present to another student, a college senior who was directing the show at Asheville High in NC at the time. And there was free beer from Brooklyn. Lots of it!

St. Michael's College in Colchester, VT, is about four miles up the road from where I'm typing this, they just completed a successful run of the show this weekend, directed by Peter Harrigan: 16 kids did 72 characters plus narrators plus juries ... one member of the cast was attacked and had had his jaw broken last year in Rhode Island as the victim of a gay hate crime, as he was walking back to his dorm: then he transferred up here. He was thrilled to be welcomed into the cast playing not only a gay resident of Laramie but also the Univ of Wyo President. Their production is an entry in the American College Theatre Festival at Kennedy Center.

Although the 2003 reading featured an awesome soundscape, in 2007 and in the second row, I was treated to that, plus film projections, slide projections, and a fully-lighted cyc together with choral speech, choregraphed stage movement on multiple platforms, costume changes, isolation lighting, liberal use of the words fuck and shit:: :: even on a liberal campus, it's the Roman Catholic Church who runs that place after all ...

Especially powerful was the speech, given by a freshman no less, which Mr. Shepard uttered to one of his son's killers in which he condemns him not to death but to life, so he would wake up each and every day for a long long time to think that this was a morning that Matt could never appreciate because he had killed him senselessly.

Judy Shepard had also visited campus earlier, as part of their Theatre and Social Justice series, entitled "Community Forum: From Wyoming to Vermont -- How do Bias-Related Incidents and Hate Speech Affect us in Vermont?"

Well, you could ask Josh Bardier '10. The transfer from Rhode Island. The attitudes that attacked him are not only found in Providence.

Or you could ask Bill Lippert, who's now the chairman of the Vermont House Judiciary Committee, and who was the co-author of the first law in the nation in any state recognizing gay Civil Unions [2000]. He still has to call home to reassure his partner that he's okay when he's been out into one of the more sketchy parts of our fine state and is driving home late.

So maybe Matt's murderers got locked up for life.....but just maybe you can't lock up prejudice nor hate quite so easily.

As many of us know.

As a happy footnote, the real Romaine now lives in New York and she has just become a mother, she and her partner Iris have a baby girl and their lives are beautifully changed. Another kind of Angel Action going on.

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kiota too late for the stars
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Moonfire Marion Bridge / Brad

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