In 1998, the world was shocked by the news of the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming. Following Shepard’s death, playwright and director Moises Kaufman created The Laramie Project, which was performed across North America and captured how Laramie’s residents struggled and tried to piece together the horrific event that rocked their community.
On Thanksgiving, in Ottawa and more than 100 other cities across North America, The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later (An Epilogue) will be performed to commemorate the anniversary of Shepard’s death.
Kaufman went back to Laramie and conducted follow-up interviews with those involved in the original production to create this piece, asking crucial questions about the long-term effects of violence.
The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later utilizes a stripped-down aesthetic, meant to keep attention focussed strictly on the script. Actors will be dressed in black and will perform the script as a staged reading.
Teri Loretto, the director for Toto Too’s production, explains that this iteration will introduce the Shepard story to a whole new generation. This will also help the audience be more aware of hate crimes in the US and Canada.
“There are hate crimes in Ottawa and we need to be aware that this does happen,” says Loretto. “This production is not Shakespeare, nor is it out of someone’s imagination. It gives us a sense of connection.”
Following the performance, there will be a question and answer period. Generally, following a performance such as The Laramie Project, people will want to know how they can help and what they can do to continue to spread awareness on issues such as hate crimes.
“People care about this issue and want to know what they can do about it,” Lawrence Aronovitch, Toto Too’s artistic director, explains.
“Each of us has the power to do something and can make an effort to engage our community as a means of getting this message out.”
Following Toto Too’s one-night engagement comes another production with a bittersweet theme, this one presented in a cabaret-style performance. Created by Simon Lalande and Matt Miwa, If Love Demands Foundation, This is Me Burning It focusses on the theme of a break-up through the metaphor of the spider’s ritual of shedding its skin. For Lalande, this personal story reflects on how a person becomes wiser when they recover from a disorienting experience.
Miwa says that the show brought infinite possibilities for him and Lalande; when the two began working together there was an instant theatrical connection. Creating a show with the universal theme of heartbreak and trying to find beauty through pain is going to be demonstrated through an unconventional format.
“This is a movement piece where we have added cabaret for entertainment value,” he explains. “The extravagance relies in the simplicity of the show which is why we are incorporating the natural theme so we can see the direct link between human and nature.”