This week we turn our attention to a slightly different chronology of texts relevant to The Laramie Project: those offered by the mass media and film.
We will begin with the Matthew Shepard footage (1996) from Tim Kirkland’s Dear Jesse (1998) documentary that I embedded in a previous post.
Then we’ll move to an October 12, 1998 edition of ABC Nightly News with Charlie Gibson anchoring the report about Matthew Shepard’s death. ABC News is the only one of the big-four networks to still have publicly accessible footage of its original reporting on the Shepard case. FYI, you have to sit through a 30-second commercial before the full clip is shown.
After ABC News, we’ll see more footage from 1998, this time captured by the camera of documentary filmmaker Beverly Seckinger and her film Laramie: Inside Out. While the film was not released until 2004, I believe its chronologically accurate to place it nearer to the event itself since the footage was collected during a similar block of time in 1998 and 1999.
Clips from the 2002 Moises Kaufman adapted and directed The Laramie Project HBO movie is next on our list of screenings. I’ve focused my selections on moments that allow us to see another versions of the Laramie physical landscape, a slightly different kind of media cacophony (revised because Kaufman is now working within a filmic vs. theatrical medium), and characters that we have/will see in “real life”. The following is a rather grainy trailer one can find on YouTube that gives a sense of the HBO film:
From Kaufman’s filmic retelling to what Kaufman describes as revisionist history, we’ll watch most of the 2004 ABC News “documentary” produced for their 20/20 program, “The Matthew Shepard Story: Secrets from a Murder.” Host Elizabeth Vargas offers evidence “uncovered by an ABC News investigation,” evidence conveniently corroborated on camera by Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, the men convicted of consecutive life sentences for Shepard’s murder. The convicted killers and some new (and old) informants from Laramie assert that the crime was the result of their participation in the town’s pervasive but heretofore unspoken methamphetamine “drug culture.” While Vargas is careful not to denigrate the profound and positive impact stories about Shepard’s death, particularly The Laramie Project, have had on dialogue regarding homophobia and hate crimes in the US, she insists that ABC’s “new information” about Shepard’s possible drug use, depression over his HIV+ status, and the rumored bisexuality of one of his killers, should be included in the narrative as it adds “fact” to the “legend” of what happened that night in October 1998.
The final program on the evening’s slate will be a segment from the June 2005 “Setting the Record Straight” episode of the LGBT program In The Life, which debunks the claims of 20/20. From this re-revision of the case, we’ll jump into discussing the 49-page audience guide for The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later, Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theatre Company’s own return to Laramie and the company’s stake in confirming and reasserting that they actually did follow Father Roger’s admonition to “say it correct.”
For this post, I thought I’d leave you with a chance to see their trailer for the Ten Years Later script. It features new video footage from interviews with Jedadiah Schultz, Dave O’Malley, Rebecca Hilliker, and Reggie Fluty.