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work of such emotional gravity. The “moments” explore reactions to Matthew’s murder in an attempt to make some sense of why and how it happened. Laramie residents and the company members who interviewed them speak candidly and honestly, with equal stage time given to those with “high, whoop-de-do jobs” and minimum wage positions, students and professors, pastors and ranchers, doctors and reporters. From this diverse group we hear eyewitness accounts: the bartender who is the last person to see Matthew alive, the young man who finds Matthew at the fence \(“I just opinions from those directly linked with the perpetrators: the girlfriend of Aaron McKinney who claims that Matthew “came on” to him and the Mormon teacher who stands by Russell Henderson. We witness the moving transformation of several university students: one budding lesbian activist determined to drown out the nauseating protest staged by a fundamentalist Christian minister at Matthew’s funeral and a theater student who revises his views on homosexuality and pledges acceptance and tolerance. There are the quiet, behind-thescenes voices of the president of the University ofWyoming, who deals tirelessly with the barrage of media interest in the city, and ranchers, keen to detract attention from the event, who insist that “hate is not a Laramie value.” Others are vocal about what Laramie’s course of action should be: the Catholic priest implores the community to respond with compassion and a young woman observes that “there are people trying to distance themselves from this crime. And we need to own this crime. I feel. Everyone needs to own it.We are like this. We are like this. We are like this.” The chorus of voices is compelling, disparate, and painfully real. Although the play reveals a level of emotion that makes for gripping theater, it also begs the question of presentation. After all, the “characters” of The Laramie Project are real peopletheir real names are used, their verbatim words recorded and spoken aloud by the actors. This gives the impression that what is on paper and on stage is the objective truth, when very clear aesthetic choices have been made for the purposes of staging a production. In other words, the interviews have been chosen deliberately and organized intentionally in order to emphasize some moments over others. After the first act, this deft manipula tion upsets the otherwise delicate bal ance Kaufman strikes between oral his tory and theater. In Act One there is a palpable intimacy between the compa ny members and local residentsthe moments feel wonderfully authentic and profound. The play reaches its emotional pinnacle at the end of this continued on page 28 311/02 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23