News Archive

Department of Theatre and Dance

New Play Examines Post-Matthew Shepard Laramie

Nov. 21, 2007 -- The lingering stigma attached to the University of Wyoming and Laramie by the murder of student Matthew Shepard almost 10 years ago and the stories that arose from it, provide a starting point for the new play by UW’s playwright-in-residence, William Missouri Downs.

“The ‘M’ Word” will run December 4-8 at 7:30 p.m. on the Fine Arts Main Stage. The cost is $14 for the public, $11 for seniors and $7 for students. For tickets call the Fine Arts Box Office at (307) 766-6666 or go online at

The multi-layered drama centers on Christian, a failed novelist who joins the creative writing faculty at UW. What Christian discovers is a campus community driven by fear, where taking offense is mandatory and accusations of intolerance are a form of professional survival.

Downs says the Matthew Shepard murder and its aftermath provide the backdrop for the play, but are not at its core.

“I was tired of all the work about Matthew Shepard being exactly the same and presenting the same story in exactly the same light,” Downs says. “One of the most frustrating things coming out of the murder coverage was that there was no deep analysis of what actually happened.”

The power of storytelling in shaping how divisive issues are perceived and talked about is one of the play’s dominant themes.

“I think that’s what happened with the Matthew Shepard murder: a story developed that didn’t tell us much about him or the facts, but it was compelling, so everyone jumped on it,” Downs says. “The end result was that this town was sacrificed for a great story, but that story has little to do with the truth.”

For more information call Kathy Kirkaldie, Fine Arts programs coordinator, at (307) 766-2160.

Posted on Wednesday, November 21, 2007


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