The Laramie Project 10 years later listen10/12/09 Mark Anderson
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11 years ago today, gay college student Matthew Shepard died after being beaten and tortured in Laramie, Wyoming, in a crime motivated by his sexual orientation. To commemorate the event and help educate the public on gay rights issues, the American Stage Theater Company presents and epilogue to Moishe Kaufmanâ€™s play, The Laramie Project â€“ 10 Years Later. The one-time performance is tonight at 7:30 in downtown St. Petersburg.
The Laramie Project â€“ 10 Years Later, is being simultaneously performed in over 130 theaters in all 50 states and internationally. The original play is comprised of over 100 interviews done in Laramie.
The original Laramie Project has become one of the most popular plays in the country, and was made into a TV movie. Todd Olson, Producing Artistic Director of the theater says the play was a game changer in theater.
The play was a catalyst in establishing stronger legal protection for victims of hate crimes. The Matthew Shepard Act was passed in the U.S. House of Representatives last Thursday. The bill expands the 1969 U.S. federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by gender, sexual orientation, or disability. The bill has been in the congress in various forms since 2001, and was set to become law in 2007, but was dropped after then President George W. Bush threatened to veto the Department of Defense bill that it was attached to. Olson sees the play and event itself as helping motivate change in this area. Orrell is also optimistic on the pace and direction of change.
The senate is expected to vote on the Shepard Act soon, and if successful, it will be sent to President Obama to be signed into law.
In a related matter, over the weekend the President again confirmed his intention of repealing the â€œdonâ€™t ask, donâ€™t tellâ€ policy during his presidency.