“So what do you remember, Aaron?” is a question posed, 10 years after the incident, to one of the two murderers who beat Matthew Shephard to death in 1998 in a small town in the US.
The question is asked by a member of the theatre group that researched and documented the after-effects of that incident, which has become the iconic hate crime against anyone different, particularly in terms of sexual orientation. The play in question is The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later, An Epilogue.
Two years ago, a Nepali production of the anti-homophobic, anti-hate play, The Laramie Project, was staged in Kathmandu. The intensity and stinging relevance of that production moved audiences here even though it was performed in English. The play is returning to Kathmandu this month as a sequel of sorts, based on the original follow-up production by Tectonic Theatre.
The original Laramie Project presented interviews of family, friends, police officers and the murderers in order to learn more about the victim and the crime itself. The follow-up returns to some of the same people to ask them about changes in attitudes, policies and legislation. But more importantly, this particular One World Theatre production, jointly directed by Bruno Deceukelier and Rajkumar Pudasaini, incorporates LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer) stories from Nepal itself.
Presented in Nepali, these stories are based mainly on strong, personal narratives from LGBTIQ authors in Pride Climbing Higher, a writing project from Creative Nepal, in collaboration with Blue Diamond Society (BDS). The project provides an opportunity for audiences, students, journalists and policy makers to reflect and debate important social issues like HIV, LGBTIQ rights, anti-hate crime legislation, the role of media and how communities attempt to define themselves and rewrite their pasts.
The One World production of ‘The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later’ has a cast of 15 (pictured) composed of both professional actors – some of whom reprise their roles from the 2015 play – and members of the LGBTIQ community.
This non-for-profit piece of theatre, made in collaboration with BDS, is supported by Save the Children and UNAIDS Nepal. This particular production is dedicated to Martin Benitez Torres, one of the 49 victims of the 2016 shooting in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. It is also dedicated to the victims of ongoing gay persecution in Chechnya, crimes that highlight the work that remains to ensure the rights of the LGBTIQ community.
Nepal is leading the fight against intolerance in this region. It is therefore all the more important for us to become sensitised to issues that affect a significant proportion of people here and world-wide. As we enter a phase of intolerance unprecedented on a global scale, we must remember that “life is so precious,” as one of the Nepali characters in the production points out. And that we “gotta take responsibility for ourselves, what we think and what we say and what we do,” as the police officer who found Matthew in 1998 rages.
A segment of Ten Years Later will be performed on Wednesday, 17 May, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, as part of the BDS’s annual event to mark the day. The play itself will run 19-28 May at the Nepal Tourism Board.
Deceukelier’s words ring true: “What can I say but express the hope that Laramie will touch you as it did me?”
The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later
One World Theatre
Nepal Tourism Board
Premiere: 19 May 5:30 PM
Till 28 May
Reservations: +977 9801192690
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