The Common Reading Program at Appalachian State is pleased to announce the 2018-19 book selection: The Laramie Project by Moisés Kaufman and the Members of Tectonic Theater Project. The Laramie Project is a play about the community of Laramie, Wyoming in the aftermath of the 1998 tragic murder of Matthew Shepard, who was a gay student at the University of Wyoming. The murder was denounced as a hate crime and sparked a national debate.
Members of the Tectonic Theater Project flew from New York City to Laramie and interviewed over 100 members of the community about their reactions to the murder and to the media attention that engulfed their town. The resulting play presents the perspectives of multiple people simultaneously, including the citizens of Laramie, members of the Tectonic Theater Project, and members of the media. The themes that emerge from this documentary-style play transcend the small town of Laramie, making The Laramie Project one of the most performed plays in America. Matthew Shepard was killed 20 years ago this fall.
Director of the Common Reading Program, Dr. Martha McCaughey, said, “The Laramie Project represents a creative and illuminating response to an act of inhumane violence. The various perspectives about exclusion, violence, and community membership offered by The Laramie Project are quite relevant for our incoming first-year students, whom we hope will engage in discussions about the issues that shape our community.”
Appalachian will welcome Moisés Kaufman to campus on Monday, September 17, 2018. He will do a reading from his work as well as a book-signing at 2:00pm in Parkway Ballroom of Plemmons Student Union. He will also give a 7:00pm public address at the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts. Both events are free and open to the public.
Moisés Kaufman is a playwright, director, and founder of the Tectonic Theater Project. He is a 2015 winner of the National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists by the U. S. government. He lives in New York City, where he has directed, most recently, Torch Song.
Judy Shepard, the mother of the late Matthew Shepard and President of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, will speak at Black & Gold Convocation on Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. Throughout the academic year, McCaughey said, students will remain engaged with the book’s themes through Welcome Weekend discussions, their First Year Seminar classes, and at the events being held on campus.
The Department of Theatre & Dance will be producing The Laramie Project, directed by Teresa Lee, Professor of Theatre. The play runs from Oct. 2-Oct. 9 in Valborg Theatre. Tickets to the play go on sale in August.
Jason Marsden, Executive Director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, stated, “Over the last two decades, Judy Shepard has delivered her message of inclusion and compassion to more than 800 colleges, workforces, and community organizations. I can easily say that Appalachian State's 2018 programs are amongst the rare few that include such a comprehensive, and impressive, set of events around the common theme of erasing hate.”
The Laramie Project is for sale at the University Bookstore. Each first-year student will receive a special edition of the book during their summer orientation visit. Student survey data show that 93% of incoming first-year students read some or all of the book before they arrive on campus to start the fall semester. In providing first-year students with a common book, the Common Reading Program supports a culture of intellectual engagement, both inside and outside the classroom, and helps students develop an appreciation of the authorial and creative process.