Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338
January 24, 2003
U of G members unite in play to fight homophobia
University of Guelph faculty, administrators, staff and students, including the university's provost and president designate, Alastair Summerlee, have come together to present a unified front against homophobia in The Laramie Project, a theatre production that runs Feb. 5 to 8 at 8 p.m. in War Memorial Hall.
The play's director, Simon Mallett, who co-ordinates U of G's Wellness Education Training Troupe, enlisted university members to act out the play's more than 80 characters in an effort to send a campus-wide message against homophobia.
The Laramie Project, written by New York-based playwright Moisés Kaufman, chronicles life in the town of Laramie, Wyoming, in the year after the brutal murder of a young gay man, Matthew Shepard.
"I thought that, through its staging here in Guelph, we could come together as a university community, rather than just as students, and be united against homophobia," said Mallett, "so I deliberately approached people on campus, from senior administrators to faculty, staff and students, and asked them to become involved."
Summerlee said he "debated long and hard about whether I had the time to be in the play. In the end, I chose to participate for two reasons: first, because there was such a wide cross-section of the university that wanted to be involved, and second, because it seemed to be a very important way of supporting education about issues of intolerance. I also think the play is very clever and moving in the way it deals with a lot of very difficult and sensitive issues."
Shepard, 21, a University of Wyoming student, was kidnapped, severely beaten, robbed and tied to a fence just outside Laramie by two men on Oct. 7, 1998. He died five days later in a Colorado hospital. At their trial, the men claimed robbery had been their primary motive for attacking the 5' 2", 105-pound Shepard, but other testimony showed homophobia had been a factor.
Kaufman and members of his company made six trips to Laramie and conducted more than 200 interviews with its residents to gather information for the play. They interviewed everyone from Shepard's friends on campus and local religious leaders to the police officer first on the scene of the murder and staff at the hospital where Shepard died.
The Laramie Project — chosen by Time magazine as one of the 10 best plays of 2000 — is based on these interviews as well as on information from the killers' trial and other events that took place in the town following the murder.
Others who will participate in the play include Jacqueline Murray, dean of the College of Arts; psychology professor Thom Herrmann and drama professor Paul Mulholland; Bruno Mancini, director of Counselling Services; Pat Case, director of the Human Rights and Equity Office; and Robin Begin, manager of operations in Security Services.
Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door and are available at the University Centre box office. Part of the proceeds from ticket sales will go to the AIDS Committee and Speak Out, the anti-homophobia group on campus. For more information, visit www.laramieproject.org or contact Mallett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338 or Rachelle Cooper, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982.