Crossposted at Equality Loudoun.
Later update: There’s a Washington Post article.
Update to the press release below: We are fortunate to have living in our community two people who were present in Laramie at the time of Matthew Shepard’s murder, and who became intimately involved in the unfolding story. Stephen Johnson, a minister whose Unitarian Universalist church provided the only safe space for GLBT people in the Laramie area, was the basis for a character in the play. Penelope Thoms was Matthew’s chaplain at the Fort Collins hospital where he died. Penelope tells of their experience here. They will be present for the Saturday, June 4 performance and discussion.
Several months after the Loudoun County School Board had adopted its theatrical presentations policy and regulations in the summer of 2005, the Loudoun Education Alliance of Parents held a panel discussion to review the results of the months long “controversy” created by some anti-gay scolds over a student’s original play. The panelists confirmed what we had predicted: Fear of further outbursts and threats was creating a climate of self-censorship – unlawful viewpoint discrimination that would not withstand a court challenge. Loudoun County High School Chair of Fine Arts John Wells stated frankly that “decisions are being made based on fear, not art, literature or pedagogical value,” and that “right now, no one I know in Loudoun would come near ‘The Laramie Project'” – even though there is absolutely nothing in the policy or regulations themselves that would preclude the play.
The panelists also all agreed that this embarrassing episode was an aberration for Loudoun County, and that the unlawful situation created by the censors would be temporary and “doomed to failure.”
Bravo to Tim Willmot, his principal, and the Broad Run High School drama department for proving them right.
Conversation Not Controversy
Ashburn, VA, May 16, 2011 — Broad Run Spartan Theatre is proud to extend its theatrical season this year and to be the first school in Loudoun County to present The Laramie Project. We are glad to have the supportive hands and encouragement of Loudoun Out Loud, Equality Loudoun, and the Metro DC PFLAG groups in bringing this incredibly moving and important work to the stage.
Thursday, June 2nd, 2011 at 7:30pm
Friday, June 3rd, 2011 at 7:30pm
Saturday, June 4th, 2011 at 7:30pm
Sunday, June 5th, 2011 at 2:00pm
All tickets are $8 and will be sold at the door. Please note that this production includes adult themes and language and may not be appropriate for all viewers. For more information call 571-252-2305.
THE STORY: In October 1998 a twenty-one-year-old student at the University of Wyoming was kidnapped, severely beaten and left to die, tied to a fence in the middle of the prairie outside Laramie, Wyoming. His bloody, bruised and battered body was not discovered until the next day, and he died several days later in an area hospital. His name was Matthew Shepard, and he was the victim of this assault because he was gay. Moisés Kaufman and fellow members of the Tectonic Theater Project made six trips to Laramie over the course of a year and a half in the aftermath of the beating and during the trial of the two young men accused of killing Shepard. They conducted more than 200 interviews with the people of the town. Some people interviewed were directly connected to the case, and others were citizens of Laramie, and the breadth of their reactions to the crime is fascinating. Kaufman and Tectonic Theater members have constructed a deeply moving theatrical experience from these interviews and their own experiences. THE LARAMIE PROJECT is a breathtaking theatrical collage that explores the depths to which humanity can sink and the heights of compassion of which we are capable.