I saw a local high school production of “The Laramie Project” last night. First of all, can I say how far the world has come that a high school can do a theatrical piece of work like this? Back in the 80's, when I was in high school, it wouldn’t have happened. While I had never seen it onstage, I had seen the film version, and remember Christina Ricci's performance with great fondness.
I have to say that I was impressed by the level of passion and ability of all involved. There were some really wonderful moments by various cast members, and I found myself moved by the show as a whole. While there are many standout moments, the actor who played Fred Phelps was uncanny in his ability to capture the essence and the mannerisms of that evil bastard. I know because I wanted to punch him in the face, as I do every time I see or hear Fred Phelps. The actor who played Matthew Shepherd really showed some acting chops, especially in the last monologue.
Another interesting thing is that I spent half the evening remembering when Matthew Shepherd was killed. I remembered listening to the news reports. I remembered hoping that he would pull through. I remembered being at the impromptu candlelight vigil in West Hollywood. I remembered how much the whole situation terrified me, and I remembered how inarticulate I was in explaining my reactions to it to people, especially the straight people in my life.
The teenagers in the audience and their reactions to the show really impressed me. Three boys, who were probably about 16, sat caddy-corner to me. The spent the last half of the show sniffling and crying. They were completely unashamed of how much they were moved. There wasn’t a trace of the machismo bullshit that so often plagues members of my own gender. I, myself, was moved, not only by the material, but by them, and wanted to put my hand on the shoulder of the boy nearest to me and give him some words of wisdom and comfort. I realized that that’s probably a bit creepy, so I didn't. Instead, I spent the majority of the time after the show watching him interact with his friends, and seeing him continuing to be moved and in tears and being up front and honest about it. Later I thought, “gee watching this kid is kinda creepy,” but I learned a lot. I realized that he already had all the wisdom and comfort he needed within himself. At 16. He's doing much better than I ever did, and my hat is off to him.
Regardless of how much the media constantly tells us that teens are either bullies or victims of bullies, my experience of them, both straight and gay and all the colors in between, tells me that there is great hope for our world. That hope is not coming from our current (or near future) crop of politicians or leaders. It’s coming from the young people who are turning out to be more rounded, more in touch with themselves, more willing to be themselves publicly, and more compassionate then ever before. I truly believe they will make the world a much better place, and I take great comfort in that.