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Innovative stage production probes hate crime

The Laramie Project’s UIndy run includes film screening, guest speakers

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LISTEN: Director James Leagre on WFYI’s The Art of the Matter

A compelling play inspired by the 1998 beating death of Matthew Shepard gets a multimedia makeover in a new production at the University of Indianapolis.

Opening April 22 at UIndy’s Ransburg Auditorium, The Laramie Project will place the limited-seating audience on stage, with the main actors arranged in an arc around them and video cameras feeding live images to three projection screens.

“It’s an experience that the audience is having,” faculty director James Leagre said. “It’s not going to be the typical ‘sit back in your seat and watch theater.’ You could come back and see this show again and have a completely different experience.”


In conjunction with the run, which continues through April 30, the Department of Theatre will host filmmaker Michele Josue for a discussion and screening of her award-winning documentary Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine, which made its Netflix debut last year. That free event will begin at 7:30 p.m. April 25 in Ransburg Auditorium, 1400 E. Hanna Ave.

The Shepard incident, which took place in Laramie, Wyo., drew attention to anti-gay violence and led to federal hate crime legislation. Kaufman and his collaborators traveled six times to Laramie and interviewed over 200 people, finding a broad range of reactions to the crime. From transcripts of those interviews and other experiences, they created a unique stage experience that explores the highs and lows of human nature.

The original script calls for eight actors who remain on stage throughout the play to portray more than 70 characters. The UIndy production adds five more actors to portray the two perpetrators and other people in their lives.

The play is a great vehicle to spark discussion about hate crime and bigotry of all kinds, Leagre said. The performances will be followed by talk-back sessions featuring guest speakers. The students behind the production are enthused about using the project as a launching point for further dialogue, he said.


“I’ve never seen students so excited about a production, because of what this is and what it’s about,” Leagre said.

Performances are scheduled at 8 p.m. April 22-24 and 28-30. Admission is $12 for the general public and $10 for alumni, senior citizens, groups of eight or more and non-UIndy students with ID. A free preview is set for 8 p.m. April 21, and a “Half-Price Second Thursday” with $6 general admission is at 8 p.m. April 28. Tickets may be reserved through the Event Ticketing Center at Ransburg Auditorium or by visiting or calling (317) 788-3251.

The final production of UIndy’s 2015-2016 season, The Laramie Project is presented by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Services Inc. As a courtesy to the cast and other audience members, families are asked not to bring infants or preschoolers to the productions. This production contains mature themes that may not be appropriate for some audiences.

The Laramie Project by Moisés Kaufman and members of Tectonic Theater Project
What: Play explores 1998 beating death of Matthew Shepard
When: 8 p.m. April 22-24 and 28-30
Where: Ransburg Auditorium, University of Indianapolis, 1400 E. Hanna Ave.
Admission: $12 general; $10 for alumni, senior citizens, groups of eight or more and non-UIndy students with ID
Free preview: 8 p.m. April 21
Half-Price Second Thursday: 8 p.m. April 28
Free film screening: Matthew Shepard Is a Friend of Mine with director Michele Josue, 7:30 p.m. April 25 in Ransburg Auditorium
Tickets and information: ETC or (317) 788-3251