Laramie Project — The show must go on

Taylor Johnson

Taylor Johnson


Student director of the Laramie Project

“Toledo Public Schools. When one thinks of that title the most important word isn’t Toledo, it’s not even School – the most important word is Public.”

This is the first sentence of an email I wrote to the Toledo board of education and Superintendent Romules Durant.

Those who attend these schools are offered a freedom to be who they are. Start students are accepted no matter their identification or background, with the idea that they will receive an unadulterated education. Therefore, it was a clear contradiction when Start High School’s Drama Club had this year’s production canceled because of the controversy that surrounds it.

This year’s fall play is to be The Laramie Project. It is the story of a college student who was tortured and killed because of his sexuality. When the play was chosen it was thought to be a phenomenal and courageous decision – considering all of the anti-bullying clubs that have been established in the past year (Gay-Straight Alliance, Teen Pep, etc.) However, after a month of rehearsals a couple of complaints had reached the ears of some “higher ups,” who frowned upon the content of the production, and the play was canceled.

We were told the Laramie Project wasn’t “family appropriate.”

When news spread to all who were involved in the production, a wave of furious passion crashed down upon them. They didn’t understand how someone could make such a decision and impose such blatant censorship. The Start thespians could not grasp the concept of a play dealing with the ramifications of homophobia being shut down simply because it was not “family friendly.”

Many productions have been performed on the Start High School’s Stage, and PG-13 warnings have gone up before, however, this time was different. This play centered on gay bashing that resulted in torture and murder, the aftermath in the community, and lessons learned. More specifically, the play is about how the citizens of Laramie, Wyoming, reacted to the murder of Matthew Shepard and the trials of the two men who murdered him – Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson.

This topic was seen as unfit by some TPS administrators.

It was through many emails and the help of board members that Start High School’s thespians were able to resurrect The Laramie Project. Start’s Drama Club members made it clear that Matthew Shepard’s story needed to be told.

Matt wasn’t just a boy killed because of his sexuality, he was someone’s son; he could have been a husband and a father.

“He could have been me or you. Matthew’s death could have been based off of many things: race, gender, beliefs, religion, or sexuality,” said Nancy Ludden, advisor for the Drama Club and head director for the Laramie Project.

The members of the Drama Club have taken it upon themselves to carry Matthew Shepard’s story to all those willing to be taught by it. Its goal is to open the minds of people.

This play will be one of the proudest productions to be staged at Start High School.

The Laramie Project will be performed at 7 p.m. on Nov. 8 and 9 and at 7 p.m. on Nov. 15 and 16. There will also be a student matinee at noon on Nov. 15 and another matinee at 2 p.m. on Nov. 16.