The Laramie Project

Synopsis: Moisés Kaufman and members of New York's Tectonic Theater Project went to Laramie, Wyoming after the murder of Matthew Shepard. This is a film version of the play they wrote based on more than 200 interviews they conducted in Laramie. It follows and in some cases re-enacts the chronology of Shepard's visit to a local bar, his kidnap and beating, the discovery of him tied to a fence, the vigil at the hospital, his death and funeral, and the trial of his killers. It mixes real news reports with actors portraying friends, family, cops, killers, and other Laramie residents in their own words. It concludes with a Laramie staging of "Angels in America" a year after Shephard's death.
Genre: Crime, Drama, History
Director(s): Moisés Kaufman
Production: HBO Films
  Nominated for 4 Primetime Emmys. Another 5 wins & 13 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
97 min

Now, I first thought the two Kids

who did this came from someplace else.

When I learned that they had grown up

in laramie, I was just floored.

In Laramie, Wyoming...

...a young man is in a deep coma,

near death from a savage beating.

When I first found out,

I just thought it was horrible.

Nobody deserves that.

I don't care who you are.

A college freshman was beaten...

...tied to a fence, and left for dead

in Wyoming this weeK.

You'd liKe to thinK

this was somebody from out of town.

Somebody who comes through

and beats somebody up.

But if we're talKing about somebody

who's been beaten repeatedly... somebody from our town,

that certainly offends us.

If you asked me before, I would have

told you laramie is a beautiful town.

It's secluded, you know, secluded enough... you can have your own identity.

Now, after Matthew...

...we're a town defined

by an accident or a crime.

We've become Waco or Jasper.

We're a noun, or a definition, or a sign.

- Do you mind if I tape this?

- No, I don't mind.

Great. Thank you again for taking time

out of your rehearsal to talk to me.

I must tell you, when I first heard

you were thinking of coming here...

...when you first called me...

...I wanted to say:

"You just kicked me in the stomach.

Why are you doing this to me?"

And then I thought, "Well, that's stupid.

You're not doing this to me."

And more importantly... students need to talk.

When this first happened,

they started to talk about it.

Then the media descended

and all dialogue stopped.

We're not reporters.

I know. I read your last play.

You did?

Gave me an idea of what you do.

Moises called, saying he had an idea

for his next theatre project...

...but there was a somberness to his voice,

so I asked him what it was all about.

He said he wanted to do a piece

about what's happening in Wyoming.

Leigh told me that the company was

thinking of going down to laramie...

...and conducting interviews,

and did I want to come?

I did, I said, yeah, but...

...I was hesitant, because as a gay man...

I mean...

...a kid had just been killed there

because he was gay.

What exactly do you want?

I'd like you to give me names of people

who might want to talk to us.

I'd like to talk to your students

and your friends.

I want to hear from the people of the town.

I have never done anything like this before.

How do you get people to talk to you?

What do you ask?

It's still very raw for us here.

I understand, but this is no longer

about laramie or Wyoming.

This is about the whole country.

To me, it's still about laramie.

The company has agreed to go to laramie

and interview the people of the town.

I'm scared, because I don't know

what I'm gonna do to ensure their safety.

I made a preliminary contact...

...with the head of the theatre department

at the University of Wyoming...

...and hopefully that will lead

to more interviews.

You're late.

I know.

We talked for a lot longer than I planned.

What did Rebecca say?

She gave me names of people

who might talk to us.

Townspeople, ranchers, some students.

We should contact these people first.

Let's see if anybody's gonna talk.

- Great.

- You okay? What?

Please, don't do that here.

- Where are you folks from?

- New York.

And what brings you to town?

We're just passing through.


- Is linda home?

- Nope, she's working.

Okay. Can you tell her that Amanda

stopped by and I'll be at the Ranger Motel?

And who are you?

I'm with a theatre company.

Rebecca Hilliker told her about me.

I never heard of her. What do you want?

We're writing a play about laramie

and the Matthew Shepard incident.

Why are you doing that?

We think it's a story that...

Sticking your nose into something

we don't need to talk about.

- That's over and done.

- I understand your feeling...

We don't want any more of this.

You're not wanted here.

Where are you going with this story?

When the play is finished,

we'll bring it around to laramie.

- And you're gonna use our words?

- That's the idea.

I've been close enough to the case

to know many of the people.

I have a daughter,

works in the Sheriff's department.

As for the "gay issue"...

...I don't give a damn one way or another

as long as they don't bother me.

And even if they did,

I'd just say, "No, thank you."

That's the attitude

of most of the laramie population.

They might poke one in a bar situation,

you know.

If they had been drinking,

they might smack one in the mouth...

...but then they'd just walk away.

Laramie is live-and-let-live.

My dear brothers and sisters, I am here

today to bring you the Word of the Lord.

In my ministry, I've found a simple truth

that I'd like to share with you today.

It's this:

The Word is either sufficient...

...or it is not.

Scientists tell me that human history...

...that the world is five billion

or six billion years old.

After all, what's a billion years,

give or take?

But the Bible tells me

that human history is 6,000 years old.

The Word is either sufficient or it is not.

In laramie, population 26,687...

...the first thing to greet us was Wal Mart.

This could be any main drag in America.

Fast food chains, gas stations.

But as we drove into the downtown area,

by the railroad tracks...

...the buildings still retained the shape

of a turn-of-the-century western town.

As we passed the University Inn...

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Moisés Kaufman

Moisés Kaufman (born November 21, 1963) is a playwright, director and founder of Tectonic Theater Project. He is best known for writing The Laramie Project with other members of Tectonic Theater Project. He is also the author of Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde and 33 Variations. He was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela and moved to New York City in 1987. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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