As a school of great diversity, Ferris has made great efforts toward social acceptance.
Some examples include recognizing and celebrating critical life changing figures in our past such as Martin Luther King Jr., and discussing religious or cultural differences in debates and informational sessions. With hundreds of student organizations, it’s easy to see the campus’ desire to encourage acceptance of others and have a connection as a student body.
However, one particular stride on Ferris’ part to raise awareness won’t be found in the library or at a meeting of an RSO, but in Williams Auditorium where “The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later” will be performed.
“The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later” is a play produced by the Tectonic Theater Project (TTP) seen by over 30 million people, and addresses the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard. The young man was brutally beaten by two men, chained to a fence and left to die in the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming, which he did six days later. Unlike other murders, this one was thought to be the cruel product of a hate crime, as the first motive of the killers was said to be homophobia.
“The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later” involved a theater company returning to Laramie 10 years after the crime in order to assess how the town was affected by the murder of Shepard, and how views on social issues had changed in the town and the nation.
“This play is told in the words of the people interviewed, journal entries of the company, e-mail correspondences, transcriptions of phone conversations, newspaper articles and reports—but always as directly from the sources as possible,” said Associate Professor of Theatre Arts Katherine LaPietra.
TTP members even interviewed Shepard’s killers, with motives being changed to a drug deal gone wrong. According to Laramieproject.org, this seems improbable according to evidence.
“One goal of this performance is to give the audience the opportunity to hear the events and opinions from a wide variety of people and make their own decisions,” said LaPietra. “The play really explores how we construct our history and sometimes so that it becomes palatable. It also speaks to beliefs and social injustices, not just in Laramie, but in America as a whole.”
But despite varying perspectives, the play’s true aim is to address the social issues and intolerances of society and to recognize that critical events such as Shepard’s death cannot be ignored.
“I think it will really open the eyes of the public and how they treat others as well as how they view homosexuality and other social and cultural differences,” said sophomore Katelyn Syring.
For students familiar with Shepard’s story, a feeling of great sadness at humans’ capability of evil is a common thread.
“It’s just so sad that people could be that hateful toward someone else,” said freshman Michelle Cook.
Sophomore Linzy Flier-Zylstra felt similarly and said, “It just makes me sad. What’s the murder of Shepard saying about human nature? It shows how awful we can be and how we are capable of terrible things.”
It all comes back to the truth that not all Americans treat each other as human beings.
“I feel that no matter what you think or believe, a person is still a person. They are still valuable even if they are different from you,” said freshman Hannah Slagh.
LaPietra feels the play will be especially affective in addressing these issues, as it puts the viewer right in the heart of the issues.
“Live theatre has a different effect on an audience. Having people right in front of you, acting these situations out, generally brings them closer to home, not always comfortably but stronger. This is especially true when the people performing are people you know,” said LaPietra.
The issue and outcome of hatred isn’t one found on only the outskirts of a far away town, but is more relevant to students than one might think.
“I feel like the performance will open Ferris’ eyes to love one another and accept people’s differences, as well as raise awareness of current issues,” said freshman Nichole Jenks.
The play will take place April 7, 8, and 9 at 8 p.m. and April 10 at 2:30 p.m. with tickets costing $4. n