Media Analysis: The Laramie Project
Moisés Kaufman's The Laramie Project, is most commonly referred to as a docudrama, a play that is largely based on real facts. The play is all nonfiction facts about the death of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student whose brutal murder shocked the country in 1998. Based on more than 200 interviews with the town's citizens during the year and a half following Shepard's murder, members of Moises Kaufman's Tectonic Theater Project, the company best known for the Broadway smash, Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, traveled to Laramie, Wyoming (home to both the victim and his killers), and conducted "The Laramie Project," directed by Kaufman with input of the performers, who also served as dramatists/writers. The Laramie Project is a theatrical collage of excerpts from these interviews and from the journals of the actor-writers themselves. Despite the fact that the events of the play are based on actual events with their own drama, Kaufman's talents as a playwright are used to enhance the emotional impact of these events and create an atmosphere that stirs the audience more than just reading of the events does. The question is, how does he do this? The most fascinating aspects of the play are the various reactions and emotions of the people that were interviewed. From the sadness and guilt of some of the townspeople, to the joyful celebration of the so-called “Reverend” Fred Phelps, played by James Murtaugh. The people who should have felt guilt over Matthew’s death did not, while those who did not bear much or any responsibility sometimes felt a sense of guilt. In this way, the play presents an example of dramatic irony in the reactions of the various groups of people involved. Father Roger Schmit, played by Tom Bower, a Catholic priest, expressed how “jolted” he was when he bravely performed a vigil for Matthew Shepherd. He also expressed his anger that various religious ministers decided not to “get...
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