Once more with feeling: A show plays 140 theaters on the same day


On October 12, theaters across the world will try something that hasn't been attempted in decades when they simultaneously present a reading of the same show on the same night.

The Laramie Project-10 Years Later is a sequel to writer/director Moisés Kaufman's 2000 ethnological coup The Laramie Project, which used the actual words of interview subjects to tell the story of the 1998 lynching of gay Wyoming teenager Matthew Shepard. The original Tectonic Theater Project play, followed by the HBO film version starring Stockard Channing, helped make Shepard an icon of the American gay rights struggle. This year, theaters around the world are staging an update to the story, which returns to the same interviewees to find out how things have changed for them in the decade since the senseless slaying.

The production, which provides an epilogue to one of the most produced American plays of the past decade, had an original goal of 100 participating theaters, but so far, it has signed up more than 140. It will also be produced in Laramie, Wyoming, a town whose reputation became synonymous with the slaying. There, in a twist perhaps indicative of the success of this idea, the show will play in a larger-than-usual space to accommodate interest, and organizers in Iraq are trying to mount a version there, too.

At first glance, the attempt to mount the script in more than 140 houses all over the world might seem to be a trick learned from Hollywood, which saturates the country's multiplexes with new movies every Friday. Actually, though, it uses something much older as it model.

I caught up with Kaufman, who was recently nominated for a Tony for his widely publicized Broadway play 33 Variations starring Jane Fonda. It turns out that the recession was a primary inspiration for the one-night-only event.

Interviewed at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Kaufman also explained how he and his colleagues are pulling it off, and he revealed the long-forgotten Depression-era blueprint for the event.