Play causes controversy, targets murder

Issues of hate turned into senseless violence will be presented with a technically innovative style by members of the Valencia College Theater. starting Thursday, June 7. “The Laramie Project,” exposes the consequences about the actual murder of college student Matthew Shepard.

“Be prepared for some serious subject matter,” said Director Julia Gagne, referencing the language and content of this production, which is amplified by its detailed account of Shepard’s death.

The powerful material also comes with a warning for more sensitive viewers and minors. Because of adult language and violent subject matter, no one under the age of 13 will be admitted.

Openly gay college student Matthew Shepard was assaulted, tied to a fence and left for dead for over 18 hours in the small town of Laramie, Wyo. in 1998. This was seen as a hate crime, and the reaction of the town and the rest of the nation changed its residents and the image of smalltown America forever.

This play was originally written by Moises Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project, who worked to capture the full story of what happened in Laramie. Months following the murder and for a year afterward they conducted over 200 interviews with members of the town and others involved with the events on that day.

The ensemble of lead actors have a uniquely challenging aspect in this performance. The eight of them have to portray over 60 different characters, most of which are reoccurring and all with small changes, not total transformation. The names of individuals are giving when they speak to the audience and only changes in dialogue, mannerisms and dress can complement the actor’s roles.This all has to be transitioned with quick timing throughout the entire production.
As the media at the time descended onto Laramie, they come into the middle of this production as well. As they do, a media tower is brought out containing 11 monitors and several reporters and cameramen reporting on the story as they interact with the main characters.

16 different actors, including the eight central ensemble members, have to organize all of this activity within an arena audience configuration with spectators sitting on four sides of the set. This creates quite a blocking and organizational challenge for director Gagne, who points out that she is more than confident in this after directing hundreds of plays throughout her career.

Tickets will cost $10 for general admission, and $8 for Valencia faculty, staff and students. A $2 discount is available with online ticket purchases by using the purchase code “VALENCIAWEB” at

The shows will start at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 7 through Saturday, June 9, with a 2 p.m. show on Sunday, and will finish with a run Thursday, June 14 through Saturday, 16, all starting at 7:30 p.m, with a final performance at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 17.

All information about this and other upcoming Valencia performance can be found at