When a tragedy happens, how do the victims and community at large pick up the pieces?
Twenty-five years after the murder of Matthew Shepard, the Wyoming town of Laramie is still grappling with the reverberations of the event. That story is the focus of “The Laramie Project,” the latest production at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd. The show runs from Friday, Sept. 29 through Sunday, Nov. 5. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 1 p.m. on Wednesday and 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Co-directed by Kate Gleason and Rodney Lizcano and based on hundreds of actual interviews conducted by Moisés Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Project, the show examines how the college town attempted to contend with the hate crime.
The Arvada Center production is getting input from someone who was there at the time — costume designer Nicole Watts, who largely grew up in Laramie and was 14 when the murder occurred.
“When I tell most people in the theater industry I’m from Laramie, this is the first show they ask me about,” Watts said. “But I’d avoided it for the last 25 years, so when I finally read it, I had a much more visceral reaction than I expected.”
The fact that she spends so much time in Laramie and knows some of the people depicted in the play provided Watts with the inspiration to get as many of the details right as possible.
“I went and thrifted at Laramie and tried to find certain touches that I knew from my time there,” she said. “There are a lot of touches people may not even notice, but I wanted them to be accurate.”
The community is really the heartbeat of the show and the humans affected in large and small ways linger with the audience member long after the show is over. And especially with the current barrage of legislation against members of the LGBTQIA+ community, the story is sadly as relevant as ever.
“The show is so well written, it’s genuinely a good show on top of my emotional connection to it,” Watts said. “While I love doing art for art’s sake, it really fills my creative cup to say something with my work.”
Regardless of what you think you know or remember about this crucial event, you’re going to come away with a new understanding of the people involved and the ripples it created — ripples our society is still dealing with.
“The play gives you a more complete picture — it’s not only about Matthew Shepard and his family, but about the community and how it became a jumping off point for a national conversation that needed to happen,” Watts said. “It still needs to happen.”
Information and tickets can be found at https://arvadacenter.org/events/the-laramie-project.
Celebrate a half-century of watermedia at CAE
The Center for the Arts Evergreen, 31880 Rocky Village Drive, is celebrating 50 years of its Rocky Mountain National Watermedia Exhibition, which is on display through Sunday, Oct. 28. The juried show attracts entrants from all over the country and has a national reputation for excellence.
According to provided information, the exhibition goes beyond traditional watercolors to include acrylic, egg tempera, gouache, and mixed media, all depicting a vast array of subject matter and styles. Jurors Ken and Stephanie Goldman have juried in 57 works (from 23 states) out of 500 submissions.
All the details can be found at https://evergreenarts.org/.
Mini con, big fun at the Lafayette Public Library
Those missing the fun of Denver Pop Culture Con can get their fix at Lafayette Mini Con, which wild be held at the Lafayette Public Library, 775 W. Baseline Road, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 30.
The free event will feature a whole slew of activities, ranging from live-action role playing duels and arts and crafts to science exploration led by the Colorado School of Mines and panels and workshops.
This should be an action-packed and informative day, so visit https://popcultureclassroom.org/events/ for all you need to know.
Clarke’s Concert of the Week — The Gaslight Anthem at the Fillmore
I’m going to tell this one like a comeback story — those of us who love their modern rock drenched in the influences of Bruce Springsteen and The Hold Steady were crestfallen back in 2015 when New Jersey’s The Gaslight Anthem went on indefinite hiatus. We’ve survived on lead singer/songwriter Brian Fallon’s great solo efforts, but there’s no replacing that full band sound.
In March of 2022 the group announced their hiatus was over and now we’re finally getting “History Books,” a new album on Oct. 27, and the group is taking to the road again. The Gaslight Anthem will be performing at the Fillmore Auditorium, 1510 Clarkson St. in Denver, at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 2. They’ll be joined by Donovan Woods and Catbite.
This will be a real, honest-to-good rock show, so get your tickets at www.livenation.com.
Clarke Reader’s column on culture appears on a weekly basis. He can be reached at Clarke.Reader@hotmail.com.