Law enforcement officials, school administrators and counterprotesters are all ready, but the question remains whether a controversial out-of-town church will make good on its threat to picket a local high school theater production the church deems homosexual propaganda.
The play “The Laramie Project” opens a two-weekend run at 7 p.m. Thursday at Granite Bay High School. The production – depicting the aftermath of the 1998 murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard – was pitched by student directors and then approved by the administration, said Kyle Holmes, the Placer County school’s drama teacher.
On Jan. 19, Westboro Baptist Church, which has a small following in Kansas, announced on Twitter its intent to protest. Using derogatory language, the group said it would picket “to warn of the eternal damnation for (gays) and enablers.” The Twitter account boasting 18,000 followers has repeated the threat, but the church’s website does not list the production among its upcoming protests. It’s unclear whether the church has local supporters. Calls and emails seeking comment from the group have not been returned.
Holmes said the school approached the play – which debuted in 2000 – with its eyes wide open.
“We had conversations about the potential sensitivity of the show,” Holmes said . “We felt the timing was right … for this to be aired at our school.”
Like most schools in America, the Granite Bay campus, in the affluent community of Granite Bay, has had issues with bullying, Holmes said. He said the play will use art to make people think about this issue.
“I don’t think anyone on this campus would say we needed this show, but I think everyone will acknowledge that we’d benefit from it,” Holmes said.
The play by Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project uses interviews conducted by the theater company to tell the story of the community reaction to the murder.