One-Night-Only Anniversary Production Of The Laramie Project

One-Night-Only Anniversary Production Of The Laramie Project
Image: Supplied

One of the world’s most striking examples of verbatim theatre is coming to Sydney next month. The Australian American Association and the Tectonic Theater Project will present a staged reading of The Laramie Project at the City Recital Hall. For one night only, an all-star cast will document the heart-wrenching, but deeply significant story of gay university student Matthew Shepard. 

The Laramie Project was crafted from interviews with the townspeople of Laramie, Wyoming, in the aftermath of the shocking and horrifying murder of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay man. Matthew’s true story has catalysed revolutionary LGBTQIA+ legislative advancement in America, serving as the inspiration for The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act 2009. Soon after this act was introduced, the US federal hate crime law was expanded to include crimes based on disability, gender identity, and sexual orientation, and the tragic events of Matthew’s case have gone on to propel momentous social change.

Twenty-five years ago, founder of New York’s Tectonic Theater Project, Moisés Kaufman, and its members, began to create the now legendary play. For this latest instalment of The Laramie Project, the Tectonic Theater Project has worked in collaboration with the American Australian Association to demonstrate the progression of LGBTQIA+ rights so far, and what is still needed to be done. 

For the 25th anniversary of The Laramie Project’s development, the play will be performed at the City Recital Hall in commemoration of International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. Australian audiences will soon gain insight into Matthew Shepard’s very human story that has significantly contributed to LGBTQIA+ history. 

Dean Bryant will direct the staged reading of The Laramie Project, and an award-winning, all-Australian cast will bring the story to life. The highly talented cast includes Tony Award-nominated Tony Sheldon, Casey Donovan, Lyndon Watts, Benjamin Law, Zindzi Okenyo and Nicholas Brown. Joining these stars is special guest and father of the late Matthew, Dennis Shepard, to deliver his powerful and influential courtroom speech from the 1999 trial. This will be the first time Dennis plays himself in an Australian production and only the second time that he has done so anywhere in the world. 

The performance will be followed by an on-stage Q&A with Dennis Shepard and the project’s Creative Team, around the role of the arts within social justice movements.

All proceeds from the performance will go towards the Matthew Shepard Foundation and the newly introduced Tectonic Theater Project Playwriting Scholarship. The scholarship will allow a passionate LGBTQIA+ Australian Playwright to embark on a two-week creative development experience in New York. 

This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity includes the observation of various training sessions at the Tectonic Theater Project’s Moment Work Institute, developed by founder Moisés Kaufman. Many theatrical stage elements are explored in detail at the institute to create strong and dramatic narratives that examine themes beyond the surface level. 

The scholarship’s primary objective is for an Australian artist to immerse themselves in Tectonic’s distinctive theatrical methodology. If the creative individual can harness the invaluable experience to craft a new, meaningful Australian play that will contribute to the nation’s art sector, the goal will be achieved. 

The Tectonic Theater Project Playwriting Scholarship includes the following: 

  • $10,000 USD to fund the initial commission fee and the living expenses for the two-week stay in New York
  • An economy return airfare from Australia to New York, courtesy of Qantas 
  • An observation of Moment Work Institute training with the Tectonic Theater Project
  • Access to a writing space at the American Australian Association headquarters in Manhattan

Applications for the scholarship will open at 9am AEST on Friday 17 May. The scholarship activities will take place in 2025 with exact dates to be announced. For more information, visit the American Australian Association website.

The Australian Performance of The Laramie Project will be held on Tuesday 14 May, starting at 7:30pm. More information and ticket prices can be found here.

Matthew Shepard’s story is one to be heard in this Australian production and plays a pivotal role in educating audiences about LGBTQIA+ rights and history. Once the story has been heard, it can be shared with many to inspire individuals and communities to spread love and embrace all people. 


When: Tuesday 14 May 2024, 7:30pm

Where: City Recital Hall, 2 Angel Pl, Sydney

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