On the Road With Laramie





Above picture: (left to right) Andy Paris, Stephen Belber, Greg Pierotti at Lincoln Center.

Many of us cried long and hard over Matthew Shepard. It still hurts and we should. I will continue to cry over Matt eight shows a week for the next few months, and it will continue to be genuine. Still we also need to look to the example of Judy Shepard. She doesn’t spend a lot of time crying when she talks about Matt. She celebrates him (her book The Meaning of Matthew is an incredibly moving read), and she works hard for the rights of queer people.

Clearly, we’ve made some great strides since October of 1998. Queer people are now protected under a federal hate crime law. Ellen has joined Will and Grace in the main stream. A few more states have passed gay marriage. And, of course, we are all currently celebrating the striking down of Prop. 8 in California.

I’m celebrating too. Thank goodness the ruling went the way it did. But can I just say… really? It’s a pretty sorry situation when simply stopping a bunch of church groups from amending a state constitution in order to deny people their civil rights is counted as a huge victory. It’s absurd that it came up in the first place. " Don’t ask, don’t tell" and DOMA are two gifts from Clinton that keep on giving. Hate crimes against gay people are up since 1998 not down. I am not naïve. I know how difficult it is to create change. I know that a handful of performances of our play is not going to wipe homophobia from the planet. It’s my hope, however, that our two plays will continue to reach hearts and change minds around the country and the world. So here I am in my apartment rehearsing my lines in The Laramie Project. The toughest lines I have to say are from a media update given by Rulon Stacey of the Poudre Valley Hospital where Matt was taken when he was found.

He says: “On Monday, October 12th… at 12:53 AM, Matthew Shepard died … His family was at his bedside. Matthew’s mother said, ‘go home, give your kids a hug, and don’t let a day go by without telling them you love them.”

Rulon Stacey became tearful when he made that statement to the media. It’s my job in recreating that experience to become tearful too. It’s not a hard job. Ten years later I still cry like a baby when I say those words. A few days after Matt’s death, Rulon Stacey received an email from a viewer who had seen his emotional moment on the news. It asked, “do you cry like a baby on TV for all your patients or just the faggots?” It’s still astonishing to me how hateful people can be. There is so much work yet to be done.

Check back in two weeks for the next installment of Pierotti's column. 

Tags: Theater