The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later

An interview with actor John Schultz about the GayFest docu-drama

Cast of The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later (photos by John Donges)

Ten years after the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard in a small Wyoming town, the creators of the original The Laramie Project return to the scene. Starting previews Aug. 7 during GayFest, The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later (directed by Josh Hitchens) examines what happened in the once sleepy community after the murdered gay man becomes a national icon and the men convicted of the crime serve their sentences.

Much like the original production of the award-winning drama – also written by Moises Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project – this new docu-drama recreates interviews of real people as they look back on homophobia, fear and death in retrospect.

We talked to one of the cast members John Schultz about his multiple roles in the show, and what audiences can expect to learn a decade after the tragic headlines were made.

What kind of impact has the Laramie story had on you as both an actor and openly gay man?

John Schultz (foreground)

As a gay man, I fortunately don’t encounter a lot of homophobia in my day-to-day life. But working on this piece has re-invigorated my awareness of homophobia, hatred towards gays and the consequences of both.

How did you first get involved with the production and GayFest?

I auditioned. Then I got lucky.

What roles do you play in this show?

Dave O’ Malley, one of the lead investigating officers of Matthew’s murder; Jonas Slonaker, an openly gay Laramie resident; Greg Pierotti, one of the Tectonic Theatre Company members, and a few other Laramie residents.

How is this play different from the first Laramie Project?

For me, Laramie: 10 Years Later is more sober and refined. We also hear from both of Matthew’s killers, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, and Matt’s mom Judy Shepard, which we didn’t in the first. These are some moments in the piece just take the air out of the room. And with Laramie: Ten, we’re dealing with some challenging subject matter like, how do you measure change?

How have these people been changed by Matthew Shepard’s murder, and the impact it had on the country?

Well, we can learn that the rate of change, and progress, is slow. That’s the hard-won lesson of the piece. But we can also gather that however maligned or forgotten Matt’s story has become, there are people who remember, and were changed by this tragedy and who are still working for change.

What are some of the challenges you face as an actor bringing real people and their stories to life?

As an actor, the language has challenged the way I work, because these are the thoughts and words of real people, not dialogue that was crafted for the actor’s mouth. So what you get is all the quirks and musicality and complexities of real people.

Any other shows coming up?

Yes! I will be playing Bianca in an all-male production of Othello with Quintessence this fall.

Click here for tickets and more information about The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later (starting in previews Aug. 7 with select dates through Sept. 1) at Plays and Players Theatre.