published Friday, February 25th, 2011

'The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later'

IF YOU GO

* What: "The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later."

* When: 8 p.m. today, Saturday and March 4-5; 2 p.m. Sunday and March 6.

* Where: Grace Episcopal Church (Undercroft), 20 Belvoir Ave.

* Admission: $10.

* Phone: 698-2433.

CONVERSATION

The audience, cast members, director Jerry Draper, the Rev. Susan Butler (the parish's priest-in-charge) and Vanderbilt University counselor/professor Evon Flesberg will discuss "The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later" following its Friday, March 4, performance.

"The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later," which will be presented by the Grace Players at Grace Episcopal Church beginning today, provides a glimpse into a town that was the scene of the 1998 murder of openly gay student Matthew Shepard.

Though a sequel to "The Laramie Project," which was staged by the Grace Players in 2005, the production stands on its own, according to director Jerry Draper.

"It does have the same impact in a different way," he said. "The first had the impact of telling the story, the nature of what happened. Now, the impact is more one of helping people say that everyone's action has a consequence, good or bad, that everyone has a responsibility to do their part."

"The Laramie Project" was created by Moisés Kaufman and members of the New York City-based Tectonic Theater Project, who interviewed Wyoming and Colorado residents following Shepard's murder. It premiered in 2000.

The same creative team put together the sequel, which premiered in October 2009 on the 11th anniversary of the student's death. It documents how Laramie responded, and changed, to the events that brought national and global attention to the community.

Draper said the docudrama shows a mixture of feelings. One openly gay character, Draper said, is now a member of the Wyoming legislature; Shepard's mother, Judy, meanwhile, advocates for equality of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people through the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

The Grace Players are the first local production company to be given the rights to produce "The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later."

The original play, Draper said, spurred the church toward more activism.

The sequel could do the same for individuals, he said, as its last lines are "Do your part. Make your world a better place."

Contact Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6497.

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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