Glen Cove High School Masquers performing The Laramie Project on Dec.1. (Photos by Jennifer Corr)

Glen Cove High School Performs The Laramie Project

Though a heavy subject, the Glen Cove High School Masquers Society took on The Laramie Project with maturity, dedication and creativity.
The Laramie Project was created by members of the Tectonic Theater Project in New York after one of the most heinous anti-gay hate crimes in the United States, the 1998 torture and murder of openly gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard. Members of the Tectonic Theater Project went to Laramie, Wyo., where Shepard was murdered, to interview the residents about the murder and the effect it had on the town. Those transcripts were turned into The Laramie Project, one of the most frequently performed plays in the United States. The Matthew Shepard Foundation, founded by Shepard’s parents, Judy and Dennis Shepard, supports productions of The Laramie Project and The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later annually across the country.

The talk-back after the show moderated by student Phoebe George and featuring
Matthew Shepard’s father, Dennis Sheppard; Councilwoman Marsha Silverman, English
teacher and GSA advisor Rebecca Goldaper, student Kayla Hogan and theatre teacher
and director Jared Ross.

On the first night of the performance, Dec. 1, Dennis Shepard was among the guests invited to speak in the talk-back that immediately followed the show. While he wasn’t there in person, he participated via video conference.
“Today would’ve been Matt’s 47th birthday,” Shepard said.
Shepard added that while the language in The Laramie Project may be strong, it’s essential to include it to tell the true story of the people in Laramie, and that, in some cases, performers have gone on strike when directors have tried to change the words.
“If you take LGBTQ+ out of The Laramie Project and you replace it with race or religion, it’s the same identical play,” Shepard said. “It’s about discrimination, violence against somebody who is considered different. It’s about fear of what you might call other, because they’re different. But look around, you’re all other. Maybe not there in Glen Cove, but as soon as you go down to Corpus Christi, Texas or Lima, Peru or where I worked for many years in Saudi Arabia, you are other until people get to know you… Until you get to know them, you push them to the side. That’s not what you need to do. You need to respect them for who they are because we all have different experiences, different lifestyles.”
But, Shepard said, LGBTQ+ is not a lifestyle.
“It’s not a choice; it’s who they are,” Shepard said, later adding, “Straight or gay, we just want everybody to have an equal chance to succeed. Our job, as parents and grandparents and adults, is to give you the encouragement and support and some guidance so you can follow your dreams and succeed.”
Joining Shepard in the talkback was City of Glen Cove Councilwoman Marsha Silverman, Glen Cove High School English teacher and Gender & Sexuality Alliance (GSA) advisor Rebecca Goldaper, student and Masquers co-treasurer Kayla Hogan and theatre teacher and Masquers director Jared Ross. Student and Masquers president Phoebe George moderated the talkback.
“I don’t need to explain to you the sheer importance of this show, especially with current things going on in the world, current legislation,” George said. “We felt that it was necessary to 1) Put on this show and 2) Talk about it further and connect it to the present day.”
Student Hogan explained that when attending high school in Florida, she saw the direct impact of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The bill, passed in 2022 by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, grants parents greater control over their children’s education, NBC News explained. However, opponents say it unfairly targets the LGBTQ+ community.
“Before legislation was passed, there was no talk, no clubs… no sort of representation at all,” Hogan said. “We had little stickers that said ‘safe space’ on it with the LGBTQ+ flag. The day after the bill got passed, they were gone.”
Hogan then explained there was a walk-out at the school that a teacher had organized.
“A kid got put in a headlock [by other students] not even five minutes after the walkout started,” Hogan said. “It’s so important for this show to be put on here because we’re able to do it, and we’re able to talk about it. There’s places in our own country that can’t even talk about it.”
Goldaper said that as a GSA advisor, it’s important for her to make sure that all LGBTQ+ students feel safe and supported at all times.
“One of the best ways we can fight back against hate is through understanding,” Goldaper said. “Studies have shown that LGBTQ+ youth are more likely to commit suicide, are more likely to be depressed… But studies have also shown that acceptance and understanding are the best things we can do to combat that. Things like using people’s pronouns feel small, but studies have shown it really makes a difference. Using people’s chosen names if they have them and taking the time to understand what LGBTQ+ youth are going through [helps].”
Councilwoman Silverman compared the small-town culture of Laramie to Glen Cove.
“As a city councilperson, I was listening to it and hearing some of the things in the beginning about Laramie and how it’s a nice town, been here for generations, everybody knows each other,” Councilwoman Silverman said. “Sounds like a place I know. All it takes is one person to hate to change that. It’s so important to have discussions and say, we may be different… But we’re one community.”
Councilwoman Silverman is one of the very few openly lesbian elected officials in New York.
“When I first ran, it wasn’t even a question, ‘Should I be out?’” Councilwoman Silverman said. “I think it’s so important to be who you are no matter who you are so that other people can see it, and see it in any place. See it in your government, see it in your school, see it in athletes, in teachers, in every aspect of the world.”
Ross said that it seemed like a “natural fit” to introduce The Laramie Project to the students in the first play he directed.
“I actually acted in the show when I was in high school,” Ross said. “I think this play has such a profound ability to put a mirror out to the audience and really start some necessary conversations. And in terms of the artistic merits of the play, it presents our students with such a diverse array of characters. It’s a real challenge for the actor and, I think , you see tonight that these students really stepped up to the plate and they’ve done an amazing job and they’re doing incredible work up there.”
To learn more about The Matthew Shepard Foundation and The Laramie Project, visit

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