LTCC play explores ramifications of a 15-year-old tragedy

Griffin Rogers
Thomas Lopez, left, and Elliott Smart rehearse for their performances in "The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later" on Tuesday.
Griffin Rogers / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

The Lake Tahoe Community College Theatre Arts Department will explore how a community copes with the aftermath of a tragedy in the upcoming production of “The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later.”

The play, carried out in documentary style, will examine how several people from Laramie, Wyo., dealt with the impact of Matthew Shepard’s murder and the media frenzy that followed.

Shepard, a 21-year-old gay college student, was tortured, tied to a fence and left for dead by Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson in 1998. The murder and trial received national attention.

“What you have is this kind of small town of Laramie, Wyo., becoming the focal point of all this attention,” LTCC Theater Director Susan Boulanger said.

Cast members in “The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later” will play real characters who were impacted by the 1998 incident, she said.

Additionally, the script, which originated from a 2008 play by New York’s Tectonic Theater Project, will also feature real dialogue and accounts of the incident.

During the course of the play’s original development, researchers from the Tectonic Theater Project made several findings, Boulanger said. One was that the people of Laramie coped with the tragedy in different ways. Some questioned the motives of the perpetrators, while others grew weary of the solemn reputation.

“What they found was a community that was trying to wrestle with its place in history and its legacy,” she said.

The LTCC play serves as an epilogue to the college’s 2010 production of “The Laramie Project,” which explored Shepard’s death and the immediate impact it had on the nation.

This year’s play will explore the aftermath of the tragedy.

“To a degree, it leaves the audience up to their own conclusions,” Boulanger said. “But it’s a fascinating look at how we as human beings need to (focus on) something in order to make sense of it.”

Boulanger chose the script because Shepard’s story is still pertinent today, she said.

“I think it’s an issue that we have to keep talking about,” Boulanger said. “How many times month do we open our web browser and find another teenage kid who’s killed himself because of all the bullying that’s going on?”

Aletha Nelligan, a cast member who plays three different characters in the production, said the play is unlike anything she’s worked on before because all the dialogue is taken from legal statements, personal accounts and testimonies.

It’s an important story to tell because people still face similar issues today, she said.

“I think this kind of production is important, it’s relevant, it’s real,” Nelligan said.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.