The Power of the Stage

The Laramie Project by Moises Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project is narrative journalism at its best. And the production performed at the Cutler Majestic Theater in Boston, a part of ArtsEmerson’s inaugural program, is a riveting and emotional performance.

The story is this…Five weeks after gay student Matthew Shepard was left to die tied to a fence in Laramie, Wyoming members of the Tectonic Theater Project traveled there from New York City, their home-base. They conducted 200 interviews over the following year with people in Laramie from Reggie Fluty, the policewoman who arrived first at the crime scene; to Catherine Connolly, an openly gay professor at the University of Wyoming; to Matt Mickelson, the owner of the Fireside bar where Shepard was last seen that fateful night in October 1998.

Eight cast members, with the simple donning of a hat or the removal of a jacket to signify a transformation, portray more than sixty characters. The play flows from one monologue to the next creating a deep and textured account of the murder that brought national and international attention to the issue of homosexual hate crime.

The Tectonic Theater Project, with unfussy staging and virtually seamless metamorphosis by the actors, strips away all that might distract the audience from the power of the words. It holds the audience in silence despite the length of the play (two hours and forty-five minutes) and the teeth-chattering temperatures in the theater.

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