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AMERICAN STAGE JOINS IN NATIONAL SALUTE

American Stage is joining more than 100 theaters in all 50 states and internationally to perform a simultaneous reading on Oct. 12 of Moises Kaufman's The Laramie Project with a new epilogue.

The murder of Matthew Shepard in 1998 is the subject of the play, a mosaic of voices from more than 100 interviews conducted in Laramie by Kaufman and members of his New York-based Tectonic Theater Project. Shepard was an openly gay 21-year-old University of Wyoming student who was beaten by a pair of roofers he met in a bar, tied to a fence in a remote field and left to die in the outskirts of Laramie. His death became a landmark in efforts to overcome homophobia.

Ten years after Shepard's murder, members of the project returned to Laramie to conduct followup interviews with residents featured in the play. They also did new interviews with Matthew's mother, Judy Shepard, and his murderer, Aaron McKinney, who is serving two consecutive life sentences. The interviews were turned into a companion piece, The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later.

"American Stage is proud to be a part of this incredible project with Moises Kaufman and our fellow theatres around the nation with this performance of the Tectonic Theater Project's powerful tribute to Matthew Shepard," said Todd Olson, the local company's producing artistic director.

The American Stage performance in St. Petersburg is at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 12, the 11th anniversary of Shepard's death. Other Florida performance locations include the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, Mad Cow Theatre in Orlando and Florida Stage in Palm Beach. Tectonic has created the Laramie Project Online Community (laramieproject.org), where collaborating theaters and universities can blog, upload video and photos and share their stories about the play and experiences in preparing and presenting the epilogue in their communities.

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