The Laramie Project

The Laramie Project

Themes and Colors
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
Media and Community Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Theater and Representation Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Laramie Project, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

By showing different characters’ reactions to Matthew Shepard’s homosexuality, The Laramie Project explores how communities and individuals deal with people who deviate from behaviors and identities that are considered “normal.” As the play opens, it quickly becomes clear that, at the time when Matthew Shepard was murdered, being gay was considered by most people in Laramie to be outside of the norm, and gay people were ostracized and discriminated against as a result. Several…

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In depicting the aftermath of the murder of Matthew Shepard, The Laramie Project meditates on what counts as violence and what kinds of punishments are appropriate for violent acts. The violence against Matthew Shepard is the primary moral lens through which different characters explore their views on violence, punishment, and mercy. While the playwrights allow many different viewpoints to be expressed without judgment, they give the last word to Matthew Shepard’s family, who advocate for…

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The Laramie Project portrays the town of Laramie, Wyoming struggling with how the media’s portrayal of Matthew Shepard’s murder reflects or contradicts their own vision of their community. As the play opens, characters describe Laramie as a friendly, normal place. In the introduction, Sergeant Hing describes Laramie as "a good place to live," Rebecca Hilliker says that "you have the opportunity to be happy in your life here," and Jedidiah Schultz says that "Laramie…

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Religion is a strong presence in Laramie, and many people of different faiths are represented in The Laramie Project. For those people, the religious teachings with which they grew up tend to influence the prejudice or acceptance with which they view Matthew Shepard. Because of this, the town’s religious leaders have tremendous power to shape public opinion, and their reactions to Matthew’s death reflect the reactions of the town at large. Through its focus…

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In one sense, The Laramie Project is not the story of the aftermath of Matthew Shepard’s murder—it’s the story of an East Coast theater company coming to a small town in Wyoming to make a piece of art about the town’s experiences in the wake of a hate crime. In making such a play, the playwrights grapple with questions about the ethics of representing real events (particularly violent ones that are far removed from…

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