The Laramie Project at NNHS

“There’s been a great increase in the number of transgender students, as well as gay students in this school, and so I thought it was really important for us to shed some light on the challenges that they’re facing and try and help create more acceptance for them in our school,” explained Andy Simon, the director of Naperville North’s ‘The Laramie Project.’

That notion led Naperville North to launch a production of ‘The Laramie Project.’

“Laramie Project is a really important, impactful, powerful piece of theater that is about the death of a gay man 20 years ago- Matthew Shepard,” said Simon.

The play’s script is made up of real life interviews with residents of Laramie, Wyoming and those closely connected to the murder of 21-year-old Matthew Shepard.

In October 1998, Shepard was beaten, tortured, and left to die because he was gay. All interviews were conducted as the trial unfolded, allowing the play to reveal authentic reactions to the hate crime.

“There are some really tough moments in it. Acting it out you have to think ‘this is something that a real person said and what they really believed.’ And with that we’re absolutely not hiding anything. With all the f-words about homosexuals is what was said and we don’t want to hide that because we want to be able to log the history and just be able to reflect on it,” said senior Ben Greenberg, who has six roles in the play.

Each cast member takes on four to six roles, leaving them with lessons as an actor and as a person.

“It was incredible being able to play a character who was close friends with Matthew and characters that deal with prejudice every day in their hometown,” said senior Ingrid Lowery, who’s playing five characters in the play. “Zachy talks about how she would be afraid to walk down the street and hold hands with her partner. And being able to play that character- something that I can’t imagine going through, was really interesting to help me understand what people go through everyday. And I think that the audience from seeing that can feel a part of that and hopefully be changed in that way too.”

The play is also raising money for LGBTQ+ organizations and the Matthew Shepard Foundation at the door.

‘The Laramie Project’ takes center stage at Naperville North’s auditorium January 25, 26, and 27. Tickets can be purchased on the high school’s fine art’s website here.

Naperville News 17’s Christine Lena reports.

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