[Book Review] The Laramie Project

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Title: The Laramie Project: a play by Moises Kaufman and The Tectonic Theater Project
Author: Moisés Kaufman
Favorite Quote: I guess I didn’t understand the magnitude with which some people hate.

I read this play in one sitting and finished shortly before 11:00. I found it for free at a library and it’s like I knew it would be life changing. The Laramie Project is one of those books that should be required reading, that English teachers should teach in high school every year.

The Laramie Project is about a theater group going to Laramie, Wyoming shortly after the death of
Matthew Shepard to interview the residents about what happened so they can make a play about it to educate about what happened. Before reading this play, I had known little about the happenings at Laramie. I had heard his name before and in the fall or late summer had listened to a powerful slam poem by an English professor who had known Matthew and only then did I really look into and find about the basics of the hate crime which occurred in the late 90s.

Matthew Shepard was a gay college student who had been brutally beaten to nearly death and tied to a fence and left in freezing temperatures for 18 hours before being discovered. Matthew died about three days later from his injuries and hypothermia. He had wanted to go into human rights activism and his death spawned a discussion about hatred and homophobia which led to the recognition of hate crimes against queer people.

Reading this book—a nonfiction account from real people about what had occurred—truly made me understand these events more than the reading I had briefly done from media online. I was meeting some of the people that Matthew knew and learning more about the events than I had before. The town of Laramie was supposedly about live and let live and reading the accounts, I met some of the people who had an interesting sense of humor and liberal views which wouldn’t think would be in place in the town.  The relationship (mother to daughter) and general personalities of Marge Murray and Reggie Fluty and learning a bit of them and their attitudes while reading their words made me smile. 

Seeing the “innocent” ignorance of people like Doc O’Connor and the powerful impact of the events and how it had helped them change was powerful. As well as seeing the blatant hatred of pastors like Reverend Fred Phelps and those that dismissed his death brought me to literal tears. It’s one thing to know the hated exists and then actually read it and know that there are people who are this way.

The impact that people like Romaine Patterson had or how people like Catherine Connolly and Jonas Slonaker were impacted by the events was so palpable and really hit home. Seeing how the loss of a friend motivated change to how the loss of a student motivated intense fear for one’s safety to seeing how the support of a victim brought hope was really fascinating for me.

This play taught me the importance of action and hope in the face of immense and incomprehensible hatred and hostility. The importance of acting out, speaking out and how one risk can be used to change an entire community. Change a world. Seeing all these different perspectives that I didn’t even discuss here struck a chord with me. It held on to me and whispered, “Pass it on. Have hope. And do not be the same. If you see work that needs doing, do it.” That’s what I will set out to do. It’s not about changing the entire world. It’s about saying a word that sparks a chain of discussion which makes people do things and leads to the progress we have today while also realizing we have a long way to go. I read this and I finally want to be the change I wish to see in the world. In any world, any community, any life because there isn’t one world or one life that we have really or one community. We live lifetimes. As John Green once said, there are entire worlds just beneath our notice of them.

So I wrote this review and now you, wherever you are, whoever you are know that this exists. You can go look it up and take it out from a library, request it, buy it and see something new. See something that we don’t talk about: the depths humanity can fall and the heights of compassion it can rise towards.

Side note:
Sorry I’ve been missing from the community, I do miss you guys, I do but I just needed and do need a break. I think I’m going to work on producing good content that will actually matter and that I actually want to put out there. I don’t want to just put out something just so that there is something there, you know? I want to put out content that’s actually good. Worthy of my name and your time. Thanks for reading! Have a great week and hopefully I’ll see you soon! I would really love if you could press that tweet or share button somewhere because that would mean a great deal and if you could comment a post you wish I’d visit, that would be grand.

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