If you want to feel hope for the future, I recommend interviewing South Eugene High School theater students.
Emma Mowry and Jakobi Luke, both seniors, have been active in theater throughout high school, and are working to bring two shows to the stage this weekend, The Laramie Project, and its sequel, The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later.
“The biggest challenge has been the story — what happened, and sitting with that,” Ten Years Later director Mowry says. “It’s not easy to get into that mindset.”
The Laramie Project, written in 2000 by Moisés Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Project, follows the aftermath of the kidnapping and tortured killing of Matthew Shepard, a young gay college student, who was tied to a fence post and left to die.
Pat Avery directs the production.
“Ten Years Later revisits the community, to see how the hate crime has shaped perspective,” Mowry says. “Ten years later, we’re in a worse state than when we left.”
Adds Luke: “It shows how easy it is to forget, when it’s easier not to remember.”
One cast is learning both shows, which will run on opposite nights.
“This show is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” Luke says. He plays Shepard’s father.
“I deliver the monologue that Matthew’s father said to Aaron McKinney in the courtroom,” Luke says quietly.
McKinney, along with Russell Henderson, was arrested shortly after the attack on Shepard, and charged with murder. The ensuing trial brought worldwide attention to the limits of hate crime legislation at the state and federal level.
In October 2009, Congress passed the Matthew Shepard Act, and President Obama signed it into law.
But hate crimes still happen.
According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), there was one anti-LGBT murder every thirteen days in 2016, and this year the murder rate has increased to one every six days.
“Hatred is easy,” Luke says, “and love, showing love, is so much harder. But it makes you feel whole.”
Adds Mowry: “It’s the pebble in the pond, and all the ripples coming out of it.”
The Laramie Project shows at 7 pm Nov. 2, 4, 9 and 11; The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later shows at 7 pm Nov. 3 and 10, with Sunday matinees at 2 pm Nov. 5 and 12. Tickets are $7 for students and seniors, $10 for adults, and can be purchased online at southeugenetheater.rog or at the box office before the show. Season tickets are also available online. For more information call the South Eugene Theater box office at 541-790-8070.