1 Comment

The Laramie Project at Ole Miss

This past week, I was surprised to learn that October 6th will mark the fifteen year anniversary of the murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming. I performed in a production of The Laramie Project in high school, and this story has held my interest for the past five years.  I was reading various articles about the tragedy when I came across a story that at the very least can be described as quite disturbing. During a performance of The Laramie Project at the University of Mississippi, a group of students (including about 20 football players at the school) allegedly disrupted the show with inappropriate laughter, talking, and name-calling directed at the cast and the characters they were portraying. The name calling allegedly included insults of a homophobic nature. The group of players were apparently among those required to attend for a freshman theatre course.

The cast of The University of Mississippi's "The Laramie Project"

The cast of The University of Mississippi’s “The Laramie Project”

The incident came to light in a front page article in The Daily Mississippian a few days after the performance. As Mississippian writer Adam Ganucheau reports,

“According to the play’s director and theater faculty member Rory Ledbetter, some audience members used derogatory slurs like ‘fag’ and heckled both cast members and the characters they were portraying for their body types and sexual orientations. Ledbetter said the audience’s reactions included ‘borderline hate speech.'”

Ledbetter went on to say that the football players “were definitely the ones who seemed to initiate others in the audience to say things, too. It seemed like the didn’t know that they were representing the university when they were doing these things.”

Courtesy of the Daily Mississippian

Courtesy of the Daily Mississippian


While continuing to read more and more into what transpired in that theatre Tuesday night, I became increasingly upset with every detail that I learned about. The fact that students attending a performance by their peers could show such utter disrespect was absolutely astounding to me. Of course actors deal with distracting audience members all of the time, but this incident appears not to stem from simple rudeness, but rather from ignorance and hate. The subject matter of the show and the upcoming anniversary of Matthew’s brutal murder makes this incident all the more insulting. Through their incredibly hurtful and ignorant behavior, these students disrespected not only the students onstage, but also the memory of the young man who the play is based on.

Although one of the football players apparently apologized for the actions of his teammates, I sincerely hope that the University of Mississippi takes this opportunity to do more than give out punishments, but rather attempt to get to the bottom of why these young people thought it was okay to behave the way that they did. While some may perceive this behavior as harmless, they fail to realize that this kind of thinking is the first step towards tragedies such as Matthew’s murder. As Matthew’s mother, Judy, said after she learned of this recent incident, “It’s not too many steps – what happened in that auditorium – from what happened to Matthew Shepard.”

Courtesy of the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

Courtesy of the Matthew Shepard Foundation.


One comment on “The Laramie Project at Ole Miss

  1. I read this article too, and I was in awe of just how rude and thoughtless people can be. I thought, haven’t we moved past this? And then I remembered where the incident took place… Mississippi. Not to generalize about an entire state, but I am from Louisiana, and grew up living in a different kind of world than I do now, here in Boston. While I hold the deep South close to my heart, I have to also recognize some of its flaws. This definitely only applies to a percentage of the people living in the South, but from my experience, that percentage is much greater than in other areas of the country. The deep South is known for its hospitality. It is also known for a slightly slower pace of life–sitting on porches, sipping sweet tea, and breathing in air so thick and moist you could cut it with a knife. I find these things to be true. With this slower pace of life, I believe the South is a few steps behind the rest of the country when it comes to certain issues. I have friends at Ole’ Miss, and it deeply saddens me to read about the crassness of their fellow students. However, I am not surprised.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: