October 2023


25: Matthew Shepard, 25 years later.

So, this is the second 25 years later post I’ve written. The first was a 500 word vomit produced in about 20 minutes. Disjointed. Disorganized.

Matthew Shepard memories (via UWyo's AHC)

The fact is, I am in Laramie, Wyoming, this week – I arrived Sunday evening and have been attending Matthew Shepard related events ever since.

Sunday night was “Laramie Pridefest: Remembering Matthew Shepard – 25th Memorial Event” – held at the physical site where Matthew Shepard was picked up by his killers. Monday night was a concert, including a piece commissioned by the Shepard Symposium in Matthew’s honor.

Tuesday was a day of rest.

An Afternoon Conversation with the Tectonic Theater Project & 25th Memorial Cast of The Laramie Project

Yesterday – Wednesday – was an amazing day: at lunchtime, the Tectonic Theater Project participated in a conversation. Although the audience was (I felt) a bit sparse, the interviewers/writers/actors provided a keen sense of what their experiences were like, descending upon Laramie in the aftermath of Matthew’s murder in order to interview local residents, generating the material that would, over time, be refined into the play that we now know as “The Laramie Project.” The audience included people who were living in Laramie at the time, one of whom participated in an argument with Tectonic Theater members at a bar in downtown Laramie – at which point, one of the “characters” in the play apparently yelled at Moisés Kaufman for asking citizens why Matthew Shepard was murdered instead of the people in jail.

The character in question, Jon Peacock, is the individual I knew best – I’d worked with him as a graduate assistant the previous academic year and I had taken several classes with him during my time at UW.

Laramie Project staged reading -- complete cast

In the evening, there was a staged reading of The Laramie Project – amazingly, sold out. The script was jointly read by a cast of 24 actors. The actors ranged from Tectonic Theater members to undergraduates who had not been alive at the time. It was amazing. The audience cried – and it was clear that several cast members were struggling, on stage, to not cry, especially during the speech by Dennis Shepard at the end of the play.

This was not my first time seeing the play: I know that I’ve seen it live at least once, in Indianapolis, and the HBO movie version, which I own on DVD.

It is going to sound odd, but I am grateful that the Tectonic Theater Project came to Laramie, conducted these interviews, and distilled this play. I know that Matthew Shepard had a huge impact on me and on my life – but there is only so much that I can do. I cannot do much: I never knew Matt and I never met Matt. However, knowing that this play continues to be performed, continues to be discussed, and continues to be a force for good means that Matthew Shepard is not forgotten and cannot be forgotten.

Today there are a series of Social Justice events at the University of Wyoming – which I will dip my toes in, including the lunchtime special, “Laramie Then & Laramie Now: Remembering Matthew Shepard” and an evening presentation of “Hurricane Diane” at the Biodiversity Center.

Rest in peace, Matthew. Matt.

R.I.P. Matthew “Matt” Wayne Shepard – *December 1, 1976; †October 12, 1998

For historical reference, see 2004200520062007200820092010201120122013,  20142015201620172018201920202021, 2022, or any of the many times he’s been mentioned on my blog via a search for Matthew Shepard.

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