The staging of a new production of The Laramie Project couldn’t have come at a better time for Queensland.

In the midst of a state election campaign where threats of rolling back gay rights and the infamous ‘gay panic’ defence have taken centre stage, the story of a 21-year-old gay university student severely beaten and left to die in the middle of the prairie outside Laramie, Wyoming is a poignant reminder of how far the state’s come and how far its yet to go in protecting its LGBT citizens.

Community theatre company Nash Theatre kicked off the show last weekend with director Dan Lane at the helm, making his directorial debut with the company he previously worked with as an actor.

Lane told the Star Observer his rehearsal process stayed true to that of the show’s founding theatre company.

“Working in community theatre you get a wide variety of experience and skill level, and what I wanted to do is use the Tectonic Theater Project and Moisés Kaufman’s idea, which is concentrating on moments of theatrical time as opposed to themes,” Lane explained.

“I wanted to create a dynamic that would involve every member of the cast in a way that they could contribute and we could discover as we went along.”

The recent discussion regarding Queensland’s gay panic defence isn’t the only social parallel that Lane says he sees in the show. Surprisingly, he also sees a connection between Laramie and Australia’s marriage equality debate.

“Marriage equality on the surface might not seem to have anything in common with homophobic violence, but we think there is a parallel there because the underlying social energies that exist in Australia today is what’s stopping us from giving marriage to gay citizens,” he said.

“It’s those energies that lead to homophobic violence becoming accepted, whether that’s overt violence or covert homophobia that leads to comments like ‘Oh, I don’t mind gay people, I just don’t think they should be able to get married’. ”

The Gay and Lesbian Welfare Association, which runs the Queensland Gay Helpline, is sponsoring a fundraising performance of The Laramie Project on Thursday, March 22. Book at 0421 105 920 or [email protected]

INFO: The Laramie Project runs until March 31 at Nash Theatre, New Farm. Bookings: 07 3379 4775 or email [email protected]

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