LARAMIE, Wyo., Oct. 9 - At first, the passing bicyclist thought the crumpled form lashed to a ranch fence was a scarecrow. But when he stopped, he found the burned, battered and nearly lifeless body of Matthew Shepard, an openly gay college student who had been tied to the fence 18 hours earlier.
That's from the first article in the New York Times' excellent "sponsored archive" of articles about the beating death of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyo., in 1998. The archive is sponsored by HBO Films, who produced a fine film adaptation of the play The Laramie Project earlier this year -- if you haven't yet, I'd encourage you to rent it.
The film is quite good, but not as moving or compelling as seeing the play performed live on stage. Moises Kaufman and the members of the Tectonic Theater Project -- the same team that was behind Gross Indecency, about the trials of Oscar Wilde -- compiled and composed The Laramie Project from recorded interviews with people from the town of Laramie itself. The form and content of the play all convey a sense of empathy, and I think that gets reinforced when the play is seen as intended -- live, performed by a small ensemble each of whom portrays many different people.
This is a powerful play, and an important one. I suppose it is a also "message play" -- but I like this play and I don't generally like "message plays." And anyway the messages it has comes from the real stories of real people in a situation that was and is all too real.
No point here in going on about what all it means or doesn't mean. Suffice it to say that I think the world is made a better place by plays such as this one, and I am gladdened and hopeful to see that it is being performed by scores of high schools and community theaters around the country.
One of my favorite speeches in the play comes from a woman named Zubaida Ula, a feminist, Muslim college student in Laramie, discussing a candlelight vigil that was held before Matthew Shepard died:
And someone got up there and siad, "C'mon guys, let's show the world that Laramie is not this kind of a town." But it is that kind of a town. If it wasn't this kind of a town, why did this happen here? I mean, you know what I mean, like -- that's a lie. Because it happened here. So how could it not be a town where this kind of thing happens? ...And we have to mourn this and we have to be sad that we live in a town, a state, a country where shit like this happens. And I'm not going to step away from that. ... We need to own this crime. ... Everyone needs to own it. We are like this. We are like this. We are like this.
The catalyst for this post is a production of The Laramie Project here in Philadelphia. The run closes this weekend, but if you're in the Philly area and you're free this Friday or Saturday, I highly recommend checking it out. The production is by the Drama Group of Germantown, with performances at the First United Methodist Church of Germantown.
THE LARAMIE PROJECT
Friday & Saturday, Nov. 29-30. 8:00 p.m.
6023 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia
Tickets: $8 at the door.
Get directions here or here.
UPDATE: The New York Times had a nice piece on The Laramie Project in the Sunday Arts section:
Clearly, "The Laramie Project" has entered the mainstream of American culture in a way few plays do. More than a docu-drama fleshing out a news story, it has become a catalyst for communities to discuss something of urgent importance: in this case, hate crimes, homophobia and the treatment of difference in American society.
I see this as a big, fat check-mark in the "Hopeful" column.
posted by Fred Clark 5:01 AM
Delaware's public libraries are updating their software, but New Castle county spokesman Anthony Carter says they won't be using "systems that block adult sites ... because no one could access anything about the state's southernmost county.
"'Sussex County does end in s-e-x,' he said."
In a related development, two formerly regular readers of this site are no longer able to access slacktivist due to new web-blocking software installed at their workplace. Attempts to load this page bring the following error message:
Request for URL http://220.127.116.11:80/ denied by WebBlocker: host blocked for full nudity, sexual acts/text.
This, of course, misrepresents the content of slacktivist. Full nudity would cost us our liquor license, and that's really our bread and butter. So the pasties and the g-strings stay on at all times -- even in the back room.
It turns out the nefarious WebBlocker screens out anything with a "blogspot.com" domain name, so this same error message warning of "full nudity, sexual acts/text" appears whenever these WebBlocked readers attempt to access The Rittenhouse Review or Body and Soul or other fine sites where full nudity is fairly rare.
(I should mention here that one of the WebBlocked readers is my girlfriend. She's a bit disappointed about not being able to read this site at work, but she's downright angry about missing Body and Soul. I actually felt much the same way when I got WebBlocked back in The Cube.)
You miss a lot of good stuff out there because of WebBlocker's prudish stance against blogspot. No accessing the salacious TBogg or the steamy opinions of Atrios' Eschaton. No more access to the hot n' wild, yet measured and reasonable, CalPundit (who is pictured wearing a tie -- but is he wearing pants?). Say goodbye to the anonymous intimacy of Hesiod. Farewell to the tantricly extended hiatus of Ted Barlow and to PLA, XXX.
No blogspot means readers must skip skippy and kick the bucket. They can no longer see the forest. They've flown the coop. (I'll stop now, apologies to those I'm forgetting.)
Kidding aside, we do have a serious problem here.The increasingly popular WebBlocker program might as well be called "Blogger Blocker." As this pernicious bit of corporate oversight spreads, we're losing many valuable readers in the 8 a.m.-to-6 p.m. prime time.
I'm technologically challenged, so I have no way of counting the visitors to this site or tracking when they visit. But based on the mind-numbing year I spent in The Cube, I'm guessing a substantial chunk of traffic visiting our various blogs comes during the workday. WebBlocker could shrink that traffic-stream to a trickle (or, in my case, could shrink that trickle to a drip).
Anybody know of any way around this WebBlocker software? Is there any way to include code or whatever on our pages to prevent our sites from being screened? Or might the good folks at Pyra be able to persuade the WebBlocker people to stop portraying all of us as smutcasters?
There has to be some way to fix this. Right now, thousands of computer users have access to Andrew Sullivan, but they don't have access to Sully Watch or Smarter Andrew Sullivan.
That's just wrong.
posted by Fred Clark 1:58 PM