For Immediate Release — April 6, 2004

Contact:

Mary E. McCrank

Media Relations Officer

(585) 245-5516

mccrank@geneseo.edu

LARAMIE PROJECT WRITER/DIRECTOR TO SPEAK AT SUNY GENESEO

GENESEO, N.Y. — Moisés Kaufman, the award-winning writer/director of The Laramie Project, will visit SUNY Geneseo this week to deliver a talk and conduct a workshop for theatre students as part of the college’s weeklong celebration of diversity.

Kaufman, who wrote the play about a small town grappling with the murder of Matthew Shepard, will speak at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 7, in Wadsworth Auditorium. The speech is free and open to the public. The lecture is being held during Geneseo’s "1 College, 1 Community, 1 World" diversity week. (For a complete list of events, go to www.geneseo.edu and click on the Stand UP Geneseo button on the home page.)

Kaufman and members of the New York City-based Tectonic Theatre Project wrote The Laramie Project, the story of Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student beaten and killed in 1998 for his sexual orientation. The case shocked the nation, and Kaufman and the theatre troupe went to Laramie, Wyo., to transform the tragedy into a play. They scripted the play using interviews with Laramie residents and excerpts from the trial in an effort to examine the community as it grappled with the prejudice and violence that led to Shepard’s death. The play also was adapted into a film for HBO.

Kaufman will attend a dinner in his honor hosted by Geneseo President Christopher C. Dahl and conduct a workshop for students Thursday morning.

In addition, the college’s School of Performing Arts will present The Laramie Project April 14 through 18 in the Alice Austin Theatre in William A. Brodie Hall. Performances will be at 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $7 and may be reserved by calling (585) 245-5833.

Greg Stoneberg, chair of the Student Association’s Contemporary Forum, spearheaded a fund-raising campaign to bring Kaufman to the campus. He worked with Melanie N. Blood, associate professor and assistant director in the college’s School of Performing Arts, who also is directing the play.

Kaufman’s visit is being made possible in part by a grant from Creating Diversity through Community, an initiative by Robert A. Bonfiglio, vice president for student and campus life. A half dozen other campus organizations, including the Pride Alliance, have supported the event with grants and publicity.

Stoneberg, a 22-year-old senior from Vestal, N.Y., who is majoring in political science, helped to organize the event as part of his role with the Contemporary Forum. As an orientation advisor, he has helped introduce new students and families to diversity issues, and as a resident assistant, he proudly acts as an Ally for the SAFE Zone program.

"An average student very well might believe that they are a good individual and do not overtly discriminate, but any time a student refers to something as ‘gay’ or ‘queer,’ those words have an affect on people and can stigmatize an individual," says Stoneberg.

"Words of hate, whether they involve racism, misogyny or homophobia, affect and hurt those who they may not directly relate to," Stoneberg says.

Stoneberg said when he saw an advertisement for Kaufman, he immediately knew he wanted to bring him to SUNY Geneseo. With the on-campus production of The Laramie Project, he knew Kaufman’s visit would be the perfect vehicle toward advancing Geneseo’s quest toward improving awareness of diversity issues.

Blood said students are less aware today than they were a decade ago about issues facing gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning (GLBTQ) students. This is one of the reasons she is working with four students on a documentary about current Geneseo students who are GLBTQ. The program is expected to air on GSTV, the campus cable station, by the end of the school year.

Blood points to Kaufman’s accomplishments, including writing and directing Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, which ran for more than 600 performances in New York. "He and his work are of interest to sociology, psychology, as well as to people in literature and the arts," she says.

Blood says she hopes Kaufman’s visit and the production of The Laramie Project will open dialogue among students and increase tolerance toward others.

Kaufman is the founder and artistic director of the Tectonic Theatre Project. The Laramie Project opened at The Denver Theatre in March 2000 and moved to New York in March 2000. In November 2000, Kaufman took his company to Laramie to perform the play. The play won the Outer Critics Circle Award of Best Off-Broadway Play. The HBO film, which recreated the theatre troupe’s efforts, was selected as the opening night premiere at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival. In June 1999, Kaufman was named Artist of the Year by Venezuela’s Casa del Artista, a national award voted on by artists from a wide variety of fields.

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