Laramie and CDA – Not So Different by Josh Swan

Josh Swan is a soon-to-be graduated student at North Idaho College, having completed his general course of study and planning to move on to systems and design thinking and sociolinguistics. In addition to his most recent project of joining the board of directors for the renewed PFLAG CDA, Josh has served on the Associated Students of North Idaho College (the student senate) for two years, as the treasurer for NIC Signers Club and was the president of the NIC Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) for the 2012-13 school year.  He volunteered to be on a talk-back panel for the play. Go ask him a question tonight!

If you want to see the play, there is still a chance! Tonight (followed by guest speaker and actor panel) and Saturday; 7:30PM at the Boswell Hall Schuler Performing Arts Center.

The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later was a phenomenal production by the North Idaho College Theatre Department. If you are unfamiliar with the original Laramie Project, it is a play based on the events following the murder Matthew Shepard, a 21 year old gay student of the University of Wyoming.

As this murder attracted national attention, one crew that went in to interview was the Tectonic Theatre Project. Tectonic differed from other media sources as it decided to take the interviews, court transcripts and create a play out of them. A cast of around 8 then presented the play, each with the possibly of playing up to ten different characters. The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later is a follow up to that play.

Following the murder, there was a 20/20 episode that worked to discredit the court cases that this was a hate crime. They tried to make the implication that the assault was not about discrimination, but rather a drug deal or robbery gone way too far. The Tectonic Theatre Project re-entered the scene and did some follow up interviews. They spoke with anyone involved or just members of the community whether they were for or against. They even went as far as interviewing Matthew’s mother Judy Shepard, and his murderers Aaron McKinney, and Russel Henderson. This play discusses the changes in climate of Laramie, work done in the state of Wyoming, and even work Judy has done to create federal hate crime laws.

As a native of the Coeur d’Alene area, it was interesting to see. Coeur d’Alene and Laramie have a lot more in common than one might think. In both cities, the college is the “liberal hub”  and while the town of Laramie faced the hate crime that led to Matthew Shepard’s death, Coeur d’Alene has been known for it’s struggle with the Aryan Nations. Both cities resent that past and wish to fully put it behind them. They wish to “forget about the past” in order to move forward. This comes up whenever a law to make a change is suggested or someone digs up a past wound. There even is similarity in arguments in board meetings and senate meetings regarding how the marriage needs to remain an institute between one man and one woman. Hearing the same arguments over again in play format allowed me to realize that every testimony against it was like a stab in the chest, another invalidation of my existence or ability to love. By the end of the play though, there has been some progress forward for change very similarly to Coeur d’Alene. There is still a ways to go, but overall it is stepping in the right direction.

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The Laramie Project- 10 Years Later

In October of 2008, a young man named Matthew Shepard was lured from a bar, beaten and left tied to a fence in rural Laramie, Wyoming in the middle of the night. He died in the hospital a few days later from his injuries and hypothermia. He was brutalized because of his sexuality– Matthew was gay.

Following the news of this egregious hate crime, the Tectonic Theater Project went to Laramie and conducted over 200 interviews with the citizens regarding the causes and effects of the horrible event. It bred the most performed play in the United States and an HBO film that went to Sundance and was nominated for 4 Emmys.

Laramie_Book_cover For more information on the Tectonic Theater Project, go here.

North Idaho College and the Theater Department are bringing “The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later” to Boswell Hall in April 2014. The original creators of the play did a follow-up investigation in Laramie, a full decade after the murder of Matthew Shepard. What they discovered was more that just a epilogue they were expecting.

Read the original article in the Press about the upcoming performances here. (Once again, if you read the comments, you will fume… North Idahoans sure are fun…)

Show dates are April 17-19 and 24-26 at 7:30PM.

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