The Laramie Project

The Laramie Project

Website of the authors & original TLP cast:

Website link to purchase the rights and books for production:

Staging | Props | Fence | Music | Slideshow | Vigils | Media | Parade | Characters

Tips on the stage set up:
Stage set up really varies from stage to stage depending on the space. I have seen shows where all the actors where on stage all the time. I have seen shows done in the round (which is quite an accomplishment!) I have seen some truly great shows that used platforms as a means of creating the space for the separate moments in TLP. When it comes to the set most people use a combination of chairs, benches, make shift tables, to create the space needed at any given time. I saw a show once that used bails of hay for cast members to sit on when they weren’t in a scene. I would say that most of the shows I have seen have incorporated the fence into the set. Some build it, some paint it, I even saw one that was made of metal that hung from the back of the stage…it was painted to look 3D and it was very cool. I had to touch it because I didn’t believe it was flat! One tip that I do have, that I have admired in several productions, is a cool way to produce the bar for our Fireside bartender. I think it looks great when they use two plain flat backed chairs placed back to back about 3 feet apart with a simple board place on top of the back on the chairs creating a table like platform. Did ya get that?

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During the memorial service most casts use umbrellas to create that scene and then chairs or benches set up like pews.

Don’t be afraid to recreate the signs like the ones Fred Phelps uses for the protest scenes. He doesn’t often carry a bible but rather a double-sided sign in each hand.

Make your own Angel Action wings

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Use of the fence:
This is the staple prop of every show I have seen. In fact, I can only think of one or two shows that did not use the fence. I have seen a wide variation of ways to build a buck fence…not all of them correct mind you. If you are going to build the fence, my number one suggestion is to look carefully at the picture of the fence and try to replicate it exactly. Otherwise, your fence just seems out of place…because people may have forgotten the name of the boy that was tied to the fence but trust me when I say they have not forgotten the fence.

When incorporating the fence into the show I have seen some really great things. One cast lined up one by one with their back to the crowd as they faced the fence to close each act. Showing the audience their reflection and giving us a sign that we had a moment to reflect ourselves. I saw one cast that built the fence in three panels and then used it to do things like divide the stage up and at one point create a cage for Aaron.
Sometimes the fence is just placed in a corner to remind us why we are there.
The fence can take up a large amount of space, which you may not have. I have seen shows where the fence was projected on the backdrop, where it has been painted…but the BEST was a show where they cut the fence out of a flat piece of metal so they could hang it in the back of the stage. It was then painted to look like it was 3D. This method was great because it gave the director the ability to move the fence whenever needed.

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The number one song that I have heard incorporated into TLP is "Amazing Grace".

I have also heard Randi Driscoll’s song “What Matters” which is a very a touching song. It was written about Matt after his death and all the proceeds go to the Matthew Shepard Foundation.


Some people also use the Elton John song that he wrote about Matthew.

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Slide show:
In several productions, directors have used slide shows to create some of the most stunning aspects of their show. I remember one university used the slide show to compare the small town they were in to Laramie. The slide would say Number of bars in [insert name of production’s town], show a picture of a local bar then it would say Number of bars in Laramie with a picture of a Laramie bar following. It went on like this over several examples of the similarities between the two towns before speeding up the pictures so you couldn’t tell which town was which. It was one of the coolest and most striking things I have seen done in a single production.

I have also seen productions that used a slide show as a silent narrative to the play. Using words and pictures to create a deeper meaning to the words they were hearing on the stage.

Slide shows can also be used to show some of the headlines from the media during the big media-descending scene.

What I love most about slide shows are they give the audience a chance to see the real Laramie and of course Matthew. This just helps bring home the story that much more.

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The vigils are another opportunity to paint a beautiful moment with in a production. Many casts light candles and even produce signs much like the ones that were used during the real vigils. This is another chance to use a slide show or a projection on the back wall of pictures from actual vigils that were held.

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There are many ways to show the media decent scene and I think I have seen them all. But hey, maybe someone will surprise me. The simplest way I have scene the media is actors running around with hand-held microphones. The most complex I have scene are casts that actually bring live cameras on stage and project them on to the back wall of the stage. Let me tell you how Tectonic did it, as it was one of my favorite things about their production. They had several multi sized TV screens that were lowered at different heights across the back wall of the stage. Then they had some of the crewmembers bring out cameras and those were projected either on one of the screens or the back wall. On the other TV screens they had pre-recorded “news casts” playing. Some of the actors on stage were in front of the cameras some were just with hand held microphones. What they accomplished with their method was a feeling of being overwhelmed. The audience had some much to look at that they didn’t know where to look. They felt like people were coming out of the woodwork, which is exactly how we felt living through it.

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Homecoming parade:
I thought I would share a cool idea one cast had for the homecoming parade scene. They had a rather large cast so this idea looked really great. What they did was make a big yellow sign exactly like the sign that was carried for Matthew. It featured the green circles and each of the cast members had an armband that they tied to their arms. They started out with just a couple of the cast members carrying the sign and sort of walking in place. Then as the scene went on a few more cast members joined in until just about everyone was silently marching. It gave a cool visual to one of the most powerful monologues in the play.

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Costumes and Character Description:
*I did NOT cover all the characters in this part but the ones that I felt comfortable speaking about. This part is based merely on my perception of the following people.*

Rulon Stacey – I have seen his character with a clipboard, glasses and sometimes a Dr.’s white jacket. I remember watching him so many times on TV…his scenes are often the hardest for me to watch.

Father Roger Schmit – I love Father Roger! If you would like to see him in person he is featured in a film called “Journey to a Hate free Millennium”. He speaks with his hands and from the heart. He also has some of the most important lines in TLP. His prop is often a priest’s collar.

Moises Kaufman – He had never been to any place like Laramie and seemed a bit scared when he got there. He has a crazy accent that is hard as hell to replicate. He is very good about responding to people doing TLP so drop him a line.

Jediadah Schlutz – I love it when Jediadah is played with a great sense of enthusiasm. This character stands out for that reason. Most cast members should be able to relate to him because you strive to have the same type of successes.

Aaron Kreifels – A Hooded sweatshirt often looks good on this character. In fact I think that’s what they used in the original production. Aaron is young and timid, was very shaken by the events.

Catherine Connolly – I really liked the way Catherine was played in the HBO version on TLP. So check it out!

Dennis Shepard – Dennis is such a wonderful person. For court appearances, he often wore slacks and a suit jacket. He has a sense of compassion about him that is overwhelming. However, he is a strong man, and a man that stands by his principles. After meeting him, it is easy to understand how Matthew grew to be the man he was.

Rebecca Hilliker – Rebecca is one of the few people that still respond to emails sent by people playing her…so send her an email and you just might get a reply.

Marge Murray & Lucy Thompson – These two characters go hand in hand in many ways. They are light hearted and funny and most people love their interaction. I once saw a lady that had the funniest T-shirts that she wore when playing Marge it had a picture of a cow on it and said something like “No Bull” I thought it fit her character well…and for some reason I always picture these two women as smokers.

AJ McKinney – I don’t have much to say about Aaron other then he has never shown remorse and his character speaks to that. He always looks best in an orange jumpsuit and cuffs.

Doc – A black driver’s hat is usually used for Doc. I like that. Oh, when delivering lines take the time to set up his jokes…don’t deliver his lines to fast because he is a funny guy!

Fred Phelps should wear a white cowboy hat, and a blue and white jacket if that can be done.

Reggie – The best outfit for Reggie is a brown Police style jacket and if you give the Laramie Police Department, a call I bet they would be willing to send you a legit Laramie Police Patch to put on the jacket (Ask for Dave O’Malley when making this request).

To get the Laramie Police patch,
send a letter on company/school letterhead to:.
Robert Deutsch, Chief of Police
Laramie Police Department
Administrative Headquarters
620 Plaza Court
P.O. Box C
Laramie, WY 82073

Matt Galloway – I like it best when casts use a half apron or a bar towel as the prop for this guy. No bartender is with out them…plus he uses his hands a lot to speak and the bar towel flows well as a prop with that.

Trish Steger (My sister) – For Trish, I recommend a nice scarf to distinguish her character. She is a smoker and uses her hands a lot when speaking.

April - She is kind of a weird, smokes too many cigarettes kind of a gal…she used to wear a long black trench coat.

Rob DeBree – Button-down shirt, tucked into jeans, belt clip badge and I have seen some that used a shoulder holster. Good Guy Rob, strong character…His best line comes when he is talking to Aaron and Aaron asks him if Matthew is going to die…Then Aaron asks if he will ever see his son again. In this moment Rob has the ability to help the audience realize just how profoundly stupid Aaron’s words are. Aaron is concerned about not seeing his son, not for a second thinking about the fact that Dennis Shepard will NEVER see Matthew again.

Tiffany Edwards - Just a sprite of a thing…she rides her old fashioned bike around town and is just a really sweet girl. Most people use a journalist note pad and pencil for her.

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