THE LARAMIE PROJECT Begins September 26 at RTP

THE LARAMIE PROJECT Begins September 26 at RTPRichmond Triangle Players continues its 2018-19 season with The Laramie Project, the groundbreaking play by Moises Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project that chronicles the people and events that led up to the horrific murder of Matthew Shepard, as well as the immediate aftermath. The production will open Friday September 28 at 8:00 pm, after two low-priced previews on Wednesday and Thursday September 26 and 27 at 8:00 pm, and run through Friday October 19.

The Laramie Project remains a stunning portrait exploring the darkness of which humanity is capable and the glimmering light of compassion that can guide us all back. Following the brutal and senseless murder of a local young gay man, one small Wyoming town comes face to face with the reality and aftermath of cruel animosity. The true story of Matthew Shepard's death and its seismic effect felt nationwide is detailed through interviews from those connected to the case and other citizens of little Laramie, Wyoming. RTP's production will join productions nationwide commemorating the 20th Anniversary of Matthew's murder.

"The Matthew Shepard case sent a shockwave through the LGBTQ community and beyond," said Richmond Triangle Players' executive director, Philip Crosby. "It was shocking in its brutality, and the resulting trial was followed nationwide, bringing a renewed interest and urgency to hate crime legislation. This play was also ground-breaking - a docu-drama, if you will, with characters based completely in real interviews. Not the first of its kind, perhaps, but on a level never attempted or accomplished before."

Matthew Shepard was a student at the University of Wyoming when he was beaten, tortured, and left to die tied to a fence near Laramie on the night of October 6, 1998. He died in a hospital six days later from severe head injuries. Perpetrators Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson were arrested shortly after the attack and charged with first-degree murder following Shepard's death. Significant media coverage was given to the killing and to what role Shepard's sexual orientation played as a motive in the commission of the crime. Both McKinney and Henderson were convicted of the murder, and each received two consecutive life sentences.

Shepard's murder brought national and international attention to hate crime legislation at the state and federal levels. In October 2009, the United States Congress passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (commonly the "Matthew Shepard Act" or "Shepard/Byrd Act" for short), and on October 28, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the legislation into law. Following her son's murder, Judy Shepard became a prominent LGBT rights activist and established the Matthew Shepard Foundation. Shepard's death inspired notable films, novels, plays, songs, and other works.

"Richmond's first production of The Laramie Project in Richmond was supposed to be staged by the now-defunct TheatreVirginia in the spring of 2003," Crosby continued, " but that theatre closed before the production could take place." Richmond Triangle Players and Barksdale Theatre (now Virginia Repertory Theatre) essentially took over the planned production, which had been cast and designed but would have perished due to the shuttering of the LORT house. Triangle and Barksdale presented The Laramie Project to great acclaim and business for three weeks in March 2003.

"We were also lucky to bring together that original cast in 2013 and produce a staged reading of the play's sequel The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later, a decade after that original production," Crosby continued. "And here we come full circle, with a new production of the original play."

RTP's associate producing director Lucian Restivo will direct The Laramie Project, with a cast including acclaimed locally-based actors Rachel Dilliplane, Annella Kaine, Amber Martinez, Cole Metz, Jacqueline O'Connor, Stevie Rice, Adam Turck, and Scott Wichmann. Costume and lights are designed by Sheila Russ and Michael Jarett, respectively, and Ellie McDade-Nelson is the stage manager.

Richmond Triangle Players' performances take place at its home at the Robert B. Moss Theatre at 1300 Altamont Avenue, just northwest of the intersection of the Boulevard and West Broad Street. Reserved seat tickets ($35 for Fridays and Saturdays evenings at 8:00 pm, $33 for Thursday evenings at 8:00 pm and Sunday matinees at 4:00 pm; $20 for previews, with discounts for groups and students) can be purchased online at RTP's web site at www.rtriangle.org, on RTP's Facebook page, or by leaving a message on the RTP Ticket hotline at 804-346-8113.

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