Curtain to go up on controversial community play

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - By Layron Livingston - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Playwright Moises Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater traveled to Laramie, Wyoming just weeks after the death of Matthew Shepard--a gay college student--who was brutally murdered.  The Laramie Project play is the result of that visit.

More than a decade later, the play will hit the Tyler Civic Theater stage, Thursday night.

"When you come in the door, you [will] become a resident of Laramie, Wyoming," said Trinity Wheeler, director of the play. "You become a witness to these events."

Wheeler is a Tyler native, but now lives in New York.  "I've wanted to come back and do a show in East Texas in the theater I grew up in," he said.

He said he approached the civic theater, earlier this years.  Tuesday, he and crew met inside the theater to make final stage preparations.

"I think it's a neat space because it's an intimate space," he said.  "It's almost as if it's a town hall meeting."

Wheeler said the words spoken during the play come directly from a resident of Laramie or someone connected to Matthew Shepard's death.

"I just don't believe the lesson of 'love your neighbor' has any agenda to it," said Wheeler.

Everyone seemed to be on board after agreeing to put on the production until information about the play was suddenly removed from the Civic Theater website in April.

Just days later, protesters and supporters of the play rallied outside the theater while the board met to make its final decision. The production was eventually approved.

"I told Trinity, this play is working before we even opened the doors," said Chris Abraham, vice-president of production with the Tyler Civic Theater and Laramie project cast member.

"For the first time in a long time, our board sat down and talked and we listened to each other," he said.  "I hope that [East Texas] appreciates this play's message of tolerance, acceptance and love."

The Laramie Project opens at 7:30, Thursday night and runs through Saturday. The play benefits Tyler AIDS Services and Special Health Resources of East Texas.

Click here for ticket information.

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