ECCT Brings ‘The Laramie Project’ to Stage Marking 25th Anniversary
1998 murder of Matthew Shepard continues to spark conversation
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the horrific 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a then-21-year-old college student in Laramie, Wyoming. The loss of Matthew and the impact of his death was felt by many, especially in the LGBTQIA+ community, which birthed the play The Laramie Project. Media outlets across the nation heavily covered Shepard’s murder, and the original production’s creation was contentious, sparking protests and anti-gay rhetoric. It is still performed frequently across the country 25 years later.
The Eau Claire Children’s Theatre isn’t the first to bring the production to a local stage, as it was also performed at UW-Eau Claire in 2018 as well. Wayne Marek, executive director of ECCT, said the upcoming show involves many moving parts despite its limited use of scenic elements.
“We are focusing on the words to tell the story with minimal scenic and costume pieces. There is a multi-media component to the show that adds projections to help set locales and focus some of the major points and themes of the show,” Marek explained.
Every production of this show can be done in various ways, and Marek said he hopes the audiences will take time to reflect on Matthew’s story and the realities of today's LGBTQIA+ community.
"I believe this production can serve as an important step to continuing dialogues about acceptance in modern society and how we can work as a community to make our city more inclusive and accepting."
ACTOR IN ECCT'S "THE LARAMIE PROJECT"
Andrew Salvaterra, one of the cast members, said he has been putting in a lot of work for this production in a unique way – specifically because he is playing multiple roles.
“I play nine different roles in the production, and it spans the spectrum from playing Jonas Slonaker, an openly gay Laramie resident, to also portraying Fred Phelps, one of the most vocally and nationally recognized anti-gay preachers in modern history,” Salvaterra said. “Portraying such a wide variety of characters gives me an incredible opportunity as a performer to embody difficult and contrasting roles. I am grateful to be a part of this production and to work with the other cast members to share this story.”
Marek noted that the cast is working adamantly to portray their characters as honestly as possible, also explaining how the process has been quite a challenge for all involved.
“I believe this production can serve as an important step to continuing dialogues about acceptance in modern society and how we can work as a community to make our city more inclusive and accepting,” Salvaterra said.
Upcoming performances of “The Laramie Project” will be at
ECCT production of The Laramie Project • The Oxford (1814 N Oxford Ave., Eau Claire) • Oct. 19-21 at 7:30pm • Reserved seating tickets for from ECCT are $25/adults, $22/seniors, and $15/students (high school and college) • Tickets are available at ecct.org, by phone (715-839-8877), and at the door • Learn more about Matthew Shepard and the Matthew Shepard Foundation online.