Texas High School Laramie Project is Back On After Outcry | Playbill

Education News Texas High School Laramie Project is Back On After Outcry

After backlash from students, parents, and the theatre community at large, the Keller Independent School District has reversed their decision to cancel the play.

Original cast of The Laramie Project

After students and community members rallied against a Texas school district's decision to cancel a high school's spring production of The Laramie Project, the Keller Independent School District has elected to reverse the decision, allowing the production to continue as planned. 

Theatre journalist Howard Sherman shared an email confirming the news via Facebook. "Keller ISD's administration recognizes the time and effort that has been put into the adapted version of The Laramie Project by students and staff members," Keller Superintendent Dr. Tracy Johnson wrote in the message to the district's community. "Upon further consideration of this, the administration has decided to proceed as previously planned with the May performance of The Laramie Project

As previously reported, parents of Timber Creek High School were notified February 23 that the production would be cancelled and replaced with a show like Mary Poppins or White Christmas

The Laramie Project chronicles the aftermath of the death of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man who was brutally beaten and killed in a homophobic hate crime in Laramie, Wyoming in 1998. Shepard’s death marked a turning point in the United States surrounding LGBTQIA+ rights and protections, eventually leading to the passage of the country’s first federal legislation for hate crimes in 2009. The Laramie Project was later created by artists from the Tectonic Theater Project using real, transcribed interviews with members of the Laramie community. 

READ: An Oral History of The Laramie Project 25 Years After Matthew Shepard's Murder

While no transparent reasoning was given for the Timber Creek production's initial cancellation, community members and local news outlets connected the choice with the school district's recent decision that district employees "shall not promote, encourage, or require the use of pronouns that are inconsistent with a student’s or other person’s biological sex." The restriction is one of many motions to ban or censor LGBTQIA+ media representation in classrooms across the country, such as the cancellation of a Florida high school's production of Paula Vogel's Indecent last year. 

The Keller ISD community responded to the cancellation with a petition to allow the show to go on, which amassed over 4,000 signatures since February 24. Students, parents, and community members expressed their outrage on the petition site, and at a recent school board meeting, according to NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

The Tectonic Theater Project's Founding Artistic Director, Moisés Kaufman, issued a statement in response to the original cancellation news. “When the administration of the Timber Creek High School cancels a production of The Laramie Project, it’s telling the LGBTQ students that their stories are unwelcome, that they should refrain from speaking their truth and that that community is not willing to listen," Kaufman wrote. "This is a terrible thing to do to any minority. The Laramie Project has been performed in thousands of universities and high schools around the world. The only logical reason to censor it is homophobia – and that’s not what that school should be teaching its children.”

Matthew Shepard's mother, Judy Shepard, also spoke with the Dallas Morning News, stating: "My heart is broken when people still refuse to see how important this work is...It might scare some kids. And it might wake some kids up. And it might make kids want to make change—all of those things. And they have the power to do it."

While restrictions on LGBTQIA+ representation continue to tighten at countless schools, Keller ISD's decision to reverse their cancellation is a hopeful deviation.

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