Simple props, simple costumes, and powerful words tell the tragic story of the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard--a 21-year-old student tortured to death near Laramie, Wyoming, because he was gay.
“I feel that Cat’s Eye is an appropriate place to do this because it provides an intimate relationship between the storyteller and the audience," says director Tom Osborne, a graduate of U of T’s Drama program.
Osbourne deliberately planned for a simple and low-tech production to keep with that sense of intimacy. “Both the script and the actors do the job so that you don’t need a lot of stuff.”
The two-and-a-half hour Victoria College Drama Society production--adapted from the 2000 play by Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tetonic Theatre Project--portrays the different accounts and insights of the people of Laramie through over 200 real-life interviews.
“While this play shows the capacity for human beings to do hateful and harmful things, it also shows the capacity for human beings to do very generous and thoughtful things,” says Osborne. “There is a diverse community out there. They all don’t think alike. So this play isn’t just about a hate crime, it’s about prejudices, and it gives voice to a whole range of opinions.”
Osborne was touched deeply when he first saw a production of the Laramie Project, and feels that the Christopher Skinner murder in Toronto and the signing of the Matthew Shepard Act into law by Obama, which both took place in October 2009, is “the tragic reason and the positive reason” to tell the story again.
This play is a late addition to the Victoria College Drama Society season. "This was not supposed to be done this year, but we felt the need to respond to [the murder of Skinner], so we had a very limited amount of time to accomplish this.”
Nevertheless, Osborne is very satisfied with the production. “Hopefully it encourages a dialogue. By hearing a personal story, hopefully it does change some people’s viewpoints. [We’ve] done some wonderful work up there.”
The Laramie Project runs through February 6 (8 p.m.) at the Cat’s Eye Theatre (150 Charles St. W). Pay what you can. All proceeds will go to the Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Youth Line, a toll-free Ontario-wide peer-support phone line for LGBTQ youth. For more information, visit the Victoria College Drama Society Facebook page.