Beautiful Boy

n 1998, a male college student was savagely beaten to death by two men.

Without the details, this story seems to be that of random crime or a drug deal gone bad, but sadly that was not the case.

This student was lured out of a bar, driven to a field, beaten, then tied to a fence and left to die because he was gay. This is the story of Matthew Shepard, which has been forever immortalized in The Laramie Project, currently playing in Chapel Hill at Playmakers Rep.

The play by MoisZs Kaufman (best known for Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde) tells the story that captured a nation's attention and put all eyes on Laramie, Wyoming in 1998. The media portrayed Laramie as a small redneck town full of hatred and narrow-mindedness. But the beauty of The Laramie Project is the realization that such a horrible crime could have happened anywhere because hatred and narrow-mindedness are not confined to small towns. The play should be called "Anytown, USA" since its relevance is universal. Matthew Shepard was a typical college student who liked to do typical college things, except he stood out to two town bigots.

The play was written and compiled from over 200 hours of transcribed interviews, police records and court testimonies, so the audience hears Shepard's story from the people who's lives he touched. Though Shepard's character never appears on stage, the audience still grieves for him.

It is rare that such a compelling piece of theater is so accessible to Duke students, and it is definitely worth the trip down the road.


Share and discuss “Beautiful Boy” on social media.