The Renegade Rip

BC’s ‘Laramie Project’ cast recreates real-life drama

Erik Klassen

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The year was 1998. In the town of Laramie, Wyo., Matthew Shepard, a young homosexual man, was found brutally beaten and tied to a fence, unconscious. He was quickly rushed to the hospital where, after lying in a coma for five days, he died.

The events surrounding Shepard’s death are re-enacted through the accounts of the townspeople of Laramie, according to interviews by a New York City theater company that visited the town shortly after it happened, in a play titled “The Laramie Project.”

This play about tolerance, love and acceptance, as well as the reality of bigotry and hatred, has been performed for audiences nationwide and has since been made into a movie. On Nov. 13, theater professor Kimberly Chin and a cross-section of students brought this play to Bakersfield College.

“I saw the movie three times and although to be honest, I don’t truly remember the events,” said Jared Ridgeway, 22, who plays numerous characters, including one of Shepard’s killers. “My friend got me interested in doing the play. So I thought I would give it a try and surprisingly, I got it.”

Another actor, Davis Smith, portrays various other characters in the play including Shepard’s father and the conservative-minded reverend that preaches vehemently against homosexuality.

“I’m simply portraying a character here, and as such I may not agree with him, in fact I disagree strongly with what he agrees,” Smith said of the reverend character”There was a point where I felt really bad about saying some of the things he says in this, very strong, very objectionable and abusive. At times, I felt like I should apologize.”

Chin, the play’s director, was quite interested in bringing the play to BC.

“At the time the murder took place, I was in graduate school,” she said. “I was not watching television or reading the newspaper back then so I only heard about this horrible event through my friends.

“Now that I am teaching here I have had a lot more time to learn more about the events that happened and figure out what I had heard was true and what was fictional.”

The last two performances of “The Laramie Project” will begin at 4 p.m. today and Saturday in BC’s Indoor Theater. Tickets are $8 for general admission and $5 for students and seniors.

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BC’s ‘Laramie Project’ cast recreates real-life drama