Matthew Shepard was a gay student at the University of Wyoming. He lived most of his life in Wyoming with his parents and brother. According to friends and family, Shepard wanted to spend his life fighting for human rights. He was described as loving and optimistic.
Shepard’s murder was heavily covered by the media, and sparked outcry about the treatment of gay people in America. For students involved in this year’s rep term production “The Laramie Project,” doing Shepard’s memory justice was important.
For Assistant Stage Manager and junior Erin Yu, getting the emotional tone of the play through music and lighting during Shepard’s vigil scene was pivital.
“For the vigil scene and during the pre-show playlist, all of the songs except for ‘Amazing Grace’ were in tribute to Matthew Shepard,” Yu said.
For senior and actor Peter Rule getting the play right was important. In one of his scenes as Father Roger Schmit, a religious leader in Laramie who hosted Shepard’s vigil, he asks the Theatre Company creating “The Laramie Project” to “say [the story] right and say it correct.”
“I definitely felt that pressure to do the play justice,” Rule said.
Yu is glad that putting on the “The Laramie Project” might give more awareness to what LGBTQ people go through while honoring Shepard’s memory.
“So many crimes happened not just LGBT hate crimes, school shootings and nothing has been done about it. How many devastating happen every day and no one thinks about them,” Yu said.
Sophomore Jo Hill is appreciative of the chance to share the story of Laramie and what the town went through after losing Shepard.
“This is definitely my favorite part of [Rep Term] … being part of this play, because it’s so powerful and it’s such an important story that needs to be told. I’m just happy I got to be a part of it,” Hill said.
For Yu and Rule, one of the most emotional important moments of the play was when the descriptions of Shepard tied to the wooden post was shared. As Dennis Shepard, Rule delivers a monologue speculating about what his last moments would have been like, alone in a prairie under the stars.
“The play starts with people describing Wyoming and Dennis [Shepard] talks about Matthew [Shepard] hearing it. It just brings the play full circle in an interesting way. That’s the part that always got to me,” Rule said.
Rule believes the tragedy of Shepard’s death is what caused his murder to become a point in national discourse. However, Rule can’t help but wonder who the person was behind the tragic symbol.
“It’s tragic. It’s his youth. It’s the wide publicity of it. He’s entered our culture as what we remember about him,” Rule said. “I wonder what it would have been like to know him.”