The Laramie Project

This article is about the play. For the film based on the play, see The Laramie Project (film).
The Laramie Project

Cover of the published text
Written by Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project
Characters Residents of Laramie and members of the Tectonic Theater Project
Date premiered February, 2000
Place premiered Ricketson Theatre, Denver Laramie, Wyoming
Original language English
Subject Homophobia, Violence, Discrimination
Genre Documentary theatre
Setting Laramie, Wyoming
Vigil scene from The Laramie Project
Scene from a 2008 performance depicting the candlelight vigils held for Matthew Shepard
Scene from The Laramie Project
Scene from 2005 performance depicting Westboro Baptist Church protesters

The Laramie Project (2000) is a play by Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project (specifically, Leigh Fondakowski, Stephen Belber, Greg Pierotti, Barbara Pitts, Stephen Wangh, Amanda Gronich, Sara Lambert, John McAdams, Maude Mitchell, Andy Paris, and Kelli Simpkins) about the reaction to the 1998 murder of University of Wyoming gay student Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming.[1] The murder was denounced as a hate crime and brought attention to the lack of hate crime laws in various states, including Wyoming.[2]

The play draws on hundreds of interviews conducted by the theatre company with inhabitants of the town, company members' own journal entries, and published news reports. It is divided into three acts, and eight actors portray more than sixty characters in a series of short scenes.[3]


The Laramie Project premiered at The Ricketson Theatre by the Denver Center Theatre Company (Denver) (part of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts) in February 2000[4] and was then performed in the Union Square Theatre in New York City[5] before a November 2002 performance in Laramie, Wyoming.[6] The play has also been performed by high schools, colleges, and community theaters across the country,[7] as well as professional playhouses in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.[8]

Many of the performances in the United States have been picketed by followers of Fred Phelps from the Westboro Baptist Church, who are portrayed in the play picketing Matthew Shepard's funeral as they did in real life.[9][10] Though the play has been produced worldwide, in 2009 it still generated controversy in Colorado[11] and Las Vegas.[12]

The holder of the royalties/rights to The Laramie Project is Dramatists Play Service, Inc.[13] The Matthew Shepard Foundation provides help and resource for those wishing to produce The Laramie Project or The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later. The Foundation's Laramie Project Specialist can help with media, historical context, creative consulting, and other resources and services at no charge to non-profit theatres and educational and religious institutions. The Foundation can also help those who wish to engage their communities in a conversation about how to Erase Hate in the world.


Notable actors/actresses who have performed in The Laramie Project include:

Actor/Actress Dramatic Appearance
Van Hansis As the World Turns
Mary Beth Peil The Good Wife
Jenna Ushkowitz Glee
Laura Linney Love Actually
James Murtaugh Two Weeks
Joshua Jackson Fringe
Stephanie March Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Peter Hermann Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Peter Fonda The Wild Angels
Camryn Manheim The Practice
Cyndi Lauper Mad About You
Clea DuVall 21 Grams
Christina Ricci The Addams Family
Judith Light Ugly Betty
Terry Kinney The Mentalist
Frances Sternhagen The Closer
Brian Kerwin One Life to Live
Robert Desiderio One Life to Live
Chad Allen Save Me
Stockard Channing The West Wing
Darren Criss Glee
Andrew Garfield The Amazing Spider-Man (2012 film)
Amy Madigan Field of Dreams

Combating homophobia

Group preparing to block protestors
Group preparing to block from view members of the Westboro Baptist Church protesting a production at Daemen College

The Laramie Project is often used as a method to teach about prejudice and tolerance in personal, social, and health education and citizenship in schools, and it has also been used in the UK as a General Certificate of Secondary Education text for English literature.

The play has also inspired grassroots efforts to combat homophobia. After seeing the play, New Jersey resident Dean Walton was inspired to donate more than 500 books and other media to the University of Wyoming's Rainbow Resource Center. Today, that campus office houses the largest LGBT library in the state of Wyoming.


As a result of the play's success, HBO commissioned a 2002 film of The Laramie Project, also written and directed by Kaufman.

Return to Laramie

Ten years after Shepard's murder, members of Tectonic Theater Project returned to Laramie to conduct follow-up interviews with residents featured in the play. Those interviews were turned into a companion piece, entitled The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later. The play debuted as a reading at nearly 150 theatres across the US and internationally on October 12, 2009 - the 11th anniversary of Matthew Shepard's death, most whose opening was linked by webcam to New York City where Judy Shepard and the play's producers and writers gave an opening speech, followed by an address by Glenn Close.[14] Daniel DeWeldon played Aaron Mckinney opposite Barbara Bain in the Los Angeles production at Grand Performances directed by Michael Arabian.

See also


  1. "Tectonic Theater Project". Tectonic Theater Project. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  2. "Murder charges planned in beating death of gay student". CNN. Archived from the original on 2007-10-11. Retrieved 2007-11-20.
  3. "The Laramie Project, A CurtainUp Review". Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  4. "Laramie Theater Scope: The Laramie Project". Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  5. THEATER REVIEW; A Brutal Act Alters a Town
  6. "Moises Kaufman's 'The Laramie Project'". 2006-11-30. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  7. Jennifer Fenn Lefferts (November 1, 2007). "Parents, others protest 'Laramie' at high school". The Boston Globe.
  8. "The Laramie Project". Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  9. Moore, Matthew (2009-02-16). "Westboro Baptist Church announces first anti-homosexuality picket in Britain". Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  10. "About Fred Phelps". Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  11. "The Laramie Project Controversy". Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  12. Davi Napoleon (2009-11-12). "This Las Vegas Judge Rules". The Faster times. Retrieved 2014-03-21. A report about the parents who tried to block a production of ''The Laramie Project'' in Las Vegas in 2009
  13. "The Laramie Project". Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  14. "Remembering a Cruel Murder: Laramie Revisited". Retrieved 2013-12-05.
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