The Laramie Project

Landon Beatty. Photo by Doug Engalla.

[NoHo Arts District, CA] – A NoHo Arts theatre review of the Group Rep’s production of The Laramie Project, written by Moises Kaufman, Ms. Leigh Fondakowski and the Tectonic Theater Project, directed by Kathleen Delaney, produced by Bill Fitzhugh and Danica Waitley, and running through May 21 at the Lonny Chapman Theatre.

The Laramie Project was written in the wake of the terrible murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming in 1998. After the murder and with a powerful need to do something, the Tectonic Theater Company traveled to Laramie and interviewed many of the town folk, friends and family of Matthew Shepard along with those who knew the two young men who murdered him. The hope was that with the help of the community, a play could be created that honored Matthew and offered healing in some way. 

The Laramie Project took two years to evolve into the play it is today and was first performed in 2000. It’s a perfect example of ‘Verbatim Theatre.’ And draws on the hundreds of interviews the company performed as well as the members’ own journal entries of their experience, and news reports from the time of the murders and trial. Over three acts and with more than 60 characters portrayed by a handful of actors, we are taken through Matthew’s life, the murder and the trial. 

Photo by Doug Engalla.

This is so well crafted that it’s as if we were a part of the community itself, talking to those who knew and loved him…it’s an astonishing piece of theatre.

The Group Rep Company never ceases to amaze me by their innovative and bold choices for their productions. The Laramie Project is a tough play. A tough subject and it must give the actors a very deep dive into a harrowing story. And yet, the way the play is constructed also gives them the opportunity to create something beautiful from something tragic. 

The stories layer one upon the other with the gravity of truth but also with the lightness of sincerity and love. These people from the town of Laramie have no agenda, the actors portraying them have only one – to bring Matthew’s story to their audience in all its nuance and heartbreak and in the words of those who knew him.

Stephen Rockwell, Landon Beatty, Kay Vermeil, Julie Davis, Margaret Staedle, Jackie Shearn. Photo by Doug Engalla.

It’s a brilliant production. Truly. Each and every actor gives their all and as the play unfolds the characters become more and more familiar, pulling us deeply into their lives as well as Matthew’s. 

The play humanizes what has become one of the most inhumane moments in recent US history. Not by trying to explain it, but by introducing us to Laramie and showing us how much like us these people really are. Surely, if we can find common ground we could perhaps prevent another such tragedy. This play has become something of a touchstone in human rights and is one of the most frequently performed plays in America. 

The message of tolerance and equality is more important than ever and the extraordinary story of the method of its construction and delivery is still utterly transfixing.

I cannot recommend The Laramie Project highly enough. The Group Rep really has excelled and I hope you will take the time to see it. Bravo!



April 14 – May 21
Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM, Sundays at 2PM
After the Matinee Talkback with cast and staff 4/23 & 4/30.


10900 Burbank Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91601

The Cast

The Group Rep cast features the talents of Landon Beatty, Paul Cady, Roslyn Cohn, Julie Davis, Marc Antonio Pritchett. Stephen Rockwell, Jackie Shearn, Margaret Rose Staedler, Cathy Diane Tomlin, Amelia Vargas and Kay Vermeil.

The Team

The production team includes Mareli Mitchel-Shields (Set Designer), Tor Brown (Lighting/Projection Designer), Michael Mullen (Costume Designer), Marc Antonio Pritchett (Sound Designer), Tessa Grace (Assistant Director), Cathy Diane Tomlin (Assistant to the Director), John Ledley (Stage Manager), Bill Fitzhugh (Producer), Danica Waitley (Producer), Kristin Stancato (Webmaster & Online Marketing), Doug Engalla (Promotional Videographer & Photographer), Doug Haverty (Graphic Designer), “The Hive” Bert Emmett, Bill Fitzhugh, John Ledley, Lee Redmond, Clara Rodriguez, Chris Winfield (Set Construction/Facilitation), “GRT Social Media” Denise Downer, Michael Gabiano & Jackie Shearn.