On the Road With
BY Advocate Contributors
October 18 2010 7:45 PM ET
When I arrive back in Boston for the second weekend of shows, word is out that Fred Phelps is planning to protest the performances. Fred Phelps is the minister of the Westboro Baptist Church. He protested outside Matt Shepard's funeral with signs that read “God Hates Fags.” He is also a character in our play. The protesters never show at our performance, although their bus is spotted. Perhaps they don’t descend from their bus because of the 2,000 anti-Fred Phelps demonstrators dressed in white and sporting rainbow ribbons who have taken to the streets in response to his visit. Many of them attend our show, which makes the second weekend’s performances almost as much of a lovefest as the first. Thanks to Fred for making it all happen.
At the same time that Emerson students are taking to the streets to protest Phelps’s threatened appearance, they are reeling from the news of Tyler Clementi’s suicide. It’s a rather schizophrenic experience coming back from Provincetown to be met by beautiful students marching for love and tolerance and by news of Fred Phelps’s hatemongering and Tyler Clementi’s antigay bullying–induced death.
I am reeling along with the students. I have just returned from “safe pocket” of P-town. And I have gotten the sense based on the Emerson students who are attending the play that our colleges are becoming at least “safer pockets.” Now this news about Tyler, a student at a “liberal” college like Rutgers, has sent the whole edifice tumbling down again, and I am listening once again to our plays with fresh ears. I wish that The Laramie Project were simply a historical piece at this point. Unfortunately, it is becoming clear all over again that the play and its sequel, 10 Years Later, are not simply historical idea pieces today. As terrifying as it seems, they may be even more pertinent now than they were 10 years ago.
Next we head to Penn State. Another college. I am now more curious than ever what its response to the play will be.