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Eastern remembers Laramie

When the theatre department decided to put on a production of The Laramie Project in the spring of 2003, it stirred controversy all over campus.

During a session entitled A Community is a Conversation: Eastern, the Laramie Project, and the Equality Ride, theatre director Mark Hallen moderated a discussion about the show’s impact on the campus three years ago.

The Laramie Project is about the aftermath about Matthew Shepard’s death. Shepard, a gay student from the University of Wyoming, was beaten to death in 1998. Members of the New York-based Tectonic Theatre Project interviewed Laramie community members and from those interviews, they created the play.

Hallen decided to bring The Laramie Project to Eastern after a senior administrator sent out an email to the faculty and staff that implied that differing views on homosexuality would not be allowed.

“When the conversation stops, the community stops,” Hallen said in his introduction to the Equality Ride session. “A crucial conversation had been stopped… My goal was to restart the conversation.”

Hallen also talked about some of the effects the play had on campus. During that semester, the Waltonian office was vandalized, and Hallen himself was warned by a student, who told him that “this is your last chance.”

Chara Bauer, a 2003 alumna and cast member, also talked about some of the effects of The Laramie Project.

“It was about saying, ‘I will talk to you, and I agree and disagree with you at the same time,” she said.

The discussion was broader than the play, however.

Junior Seretha Curry asked the Equality Riders if they found Eastern to be a hostile campus.

In answer, Rider Dawn Davridge said, “The policy is totally different [than other schools’], but it’s still a rough campus to be gay.”

David Mack, a senior who is openly homosexual, added, “For the most part, Eastern has been a very good community.”

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