Study Guide

The Laramie Project

by Moisés Kaufman

The Laramie Project Summary

Summary

Act 1

The Laramie Project begins with a section titled “Moment.” It is in this brief segment (which is repeated throughout the play) that the members of Tectonic Theater Project read entries from the journals they have kept during their interviews with the people of Laramie. This repeated section also affords special characters a chance to deliver longer monologues than those given in the rest of the play, which is set up as interviews. After an opening comment by the narrator, one of the town’s long-time residents provides a bit of personal history about living in Laramie. Through this narration, the audience also gains some insights into the history of the town. Other people join in: some are newcomers; others have lived in Laramie for a long time. All of them provide background information on what it is like, in general, to be involved in the culture of the town. This sets up the atmosphere of the play. It gives the audience an idea of what life was like before the murder of Matt Shepard.

The atmosphere of the plays changes when Jedadiah Schultz begins to talk. This is the first time that there is an allusion to the fact that something seriously wrong has happened to Laramie—that the town has changed. Jedadiah begins with the statement: “It’s hard to talk about Laramie now.” Then he continues: “If you would have asked me before, I would have told you Laramie is a beautiful town.” Things have obviously changed.

Then comes another “Moment.” In this one, Rebecca Hilliker, a college professor, offers her opinions of her students. They are different from ones she has taught in other towns, in other states. They speak their mind. They have strong opinions, which Hilliker likes because it creates a “dynamic in education.” The “Moment” then changes focus, returning to Jedadiah, who relates the story of how he won a scholarship to the university by performing a scene from Angels in America, a play with homosexual characters. He concludes by saying that his parents were opposed to his doing this and did not show up for his performance. His statements begin to reveal the chasm in the community between those who are open-minded about homosexuality and those who are not.

The play returns to the interview format, with several more community members giving their views of the town. They provide more history, such as the presence and influence of the railroads. Marge Murray discusses the distinction she feels between those who are educated and those who are not. But overall, Marge believes that the general sentiment of the townspeople is “live and let live.” However, when Marge is told that what she is saying will eventually end up in a play, she decides that she had better not tell the interviewer everything that she knows.

In the next “Moment,” Andy Paris, a member of Tectonic Theater Project, reveals that they have finally come across someone who really knew Matthew Shepard. This person is Doc O’Connor, a limousine driver who befriended Shepard. Doc provides a description of Shepard, depicting him as a slightly built young man who was not afraid to speak his mind. The next few people interviewed continue the description of Shepard. They talk about how friendly he was despite his initial shyness.

Doc reappears and provides more background information about the people of Laramie, stating that Shepard was by far not the only gay person in town. Doc believes that the gay townspeople would not make this...

(The entire section is 1444 words.)