The Virginia Tech School of Performing Arts will present "The Laramie Project" and "The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later" throughout the month of November as a part of its 2014-2015 Mainstage Theatre series.

A total of 18 performances will be held in the Squires Studio Theatre, which is located in the Squires Student Center at 290 College Ave. on the campus of Virginia Tech. A full schedule of performance dates and times are available online for "The Laramie Project" and "The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later."

In 1998, openly gay college student Matthew Shepard was beaten beyond recognition, tied to a fence, and left to die on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming. In the aftermath, the small town of Laramie was thrust into the national spotlight revealing the harsh truth of violence and prejudice that the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community faces in contemporary society. 

In the weeks that followed the tragic event, Moises Kaufman and members of the New York based Tectonic Theater Project traveled to Laramie in hopes of discovering some deeper, inalienable meaning behind Shepard’s murder. Through the use of documentary theatre techniques, interviews, and news reports, “The Laramie Project” was born.

"The Laramie Project" presents a deeply complex portrait of the community’s response through a series of poignant reflections and monologues. In "The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later," the troupe returns to Wyoming after a decade to explore how time changes narrative and perspectives.

Susanna Rinehart, associate professor of theatre arts, directs the production which features a cast of 11 ensemble actors comprised of undergraduate students with majors across campus including business management, English, hospitality, international studies, psychology, and theatre. The cast portrays the same characters throughout the cycle, allowing the audience to truly connect with the evolution of the story and and events surrounding Shepard’s murder. 

This will be the second time Rinehart has directed the "The Laramie Project" at Virginia Tech. 

Theatergoers will have an amazing opportunity to see both shows in repertory over the course of two nights, or back-to-back on Friday and Saturday evenings throughout the course of the run. Special ticket prices allow patrons to receive half off tickets to "The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later" when purchasing advance tickets to the complete cycle.

"The Laramie Project" was written by Moises Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project. "The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later" was written by Kaufman, Leigh Fondakowski, Greg Pierotti, Andy Paris, and Stephen Belber. 

The 2014-2015 School of Performing Arts Mainstage Theatre series also includes "Fool for Love" by Sam Shepard on Feb. 24-28 and March 2-4, and William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" on April 15-18 and 20-25.

Tickets are $10 general admission and $8 for seniors and students. Performance times, as well as ticket information, may be found online. Tickets can also be purchased at the Student Centers and Activities Ticket Office on the first floor of Squires Student Center, or by calling 540-231-5615. Tickets will also be available at the box office beginning one hour prior to the performance. 

Free parking is available on weekends and after 5 p.m. weekdays in the Squires Lot, located at the corner of College Avenue and Otey Streets, in the Architecture Annex Lot on Otey Street, and the Perry Street/Prices Fork lots. Find more parking information online or call 540-231-3200. Alternative parking is available in the Kent Squire parking garage and the Farmers Market metered parking lot, both located on Draper Road. Additional downtown Blacksburg parking information is available online.

Written by Willie Caldwell of Blacksburg VA., a graduate student studying arts leadership in the School of Performing Arts.