In this moment, Andy Paris meets shopkeeper Trish Steger, someone who knew Matthew Shepard, for the first time. Trish says that she knew “Matt” because he used to come into her shop, and Andy comments that Trish was the first person he heard call Matthew “Matt.” Doc O’Connor then jumps in, describing how, one October night, he received a phone call from Matthew asking Doc to pick him up in his limo. Matthew told Doc to take him to a gay bar, asking “Do you have a problem with that?” Doc drove Matthew to a bar in a town an hour away. Doc says that he liked Matt because he was straightforward.
As the playwrights talk with people who actually knew Matthew Shepard, they humanize Matthew in a way that more journalistic mediums may not be capable of. From Doc O’Connor, the audience learns that Matthew was very open about his sexuality. It is also evident that Matthew was very aware of the bigotry he faced in Laramie, as Matthew defensively and immediately asked Doc whether he had a problem with his sexuality.
Trish Steger refers the theater company to her sister Romaine Patterson, a close friend of Matthew Shepard’s. Romaine then appears, talking about how, in their friend group, they all referred to Matt as “Choo-choo.” Romaine describes Matthew’s vibrant smile and how he would stare people down in the local coffee shop to get his favorite spot. She also mentions that Matthew was very interested in politics and enjoyed watching CNN and MSNBC.
Romaine’s portrait of Matthew is extremely intimate as she describes Matthew’s smile and his nickname in their friend group. Matthew’s interest in politics also suggests that he was unhappy with aspects of society—presumably in part with the treatment of LGBT people—and hoped to incite change.
Jon Peacock, Matthew Shepard’s academic advisor at the University of Wyoming, describes how, when Matthew first entered the university, he was very shy and maladjusted. Eventually, however, Matthew became more open about his interests and told Jon that he wanted to work in human rights. Jon describes Matthew “blooming” and beginning to feel that he could make a difference. The floor switches back to Romaine Patterson, who says that Matthew told her he had joined a campus gay and lesbian group and was preparing for Pride Week a few days before his attack. Jon then says that Matthew’s interest in human rights makes his murder even more ironic and tragic.
Combined with Doc’s description of Matthew’s open sexuality, Jon Peacock’s descriptions of Matthew’s interest in human rights suggests that Matthew saw something lacking in the way people treated him because of his sexuality. While Jon sees Matthew’s interest in human rights as ironic and tragic, it could also be seen as a kind of solace that Matthew’s death sparked a national conversation about LBGT acceptance.