Curating Letters From Laramie

In conjunction with the fall production of The Laramie Project at Ford’s Theatre, Shayla Roland helped create an exhibit of letters sent to the parents of Matthew Shepard after their son was murdered in 1998 because he was gay. Photo courtesy of Teresa Wood Photography.

Shayla Roland ’10 found herself in the basement of the Wyoming home of Judy and Dennis Shepard, sorting through thousands of letters. The notes − sent in an outpouring of support after the 1998 murder in Laramie of the Shepards’ gay son, Matthew − had remained largely untouched since. When Roland was studying to be a stage manager at the University of Mary Washington, she couldn’t have imagined doing work like this to support a major stage production of The Laramie Project, which explores the aftermath of the Wyoming hate crime. After graduation, Roland took parttime work at historic Ford’s Theatre. Last February, the Washington, D.C., theater − famous as the location of the 1865 assassination of Abraham Lincoln − made Roland its full-time special programming manager. What shows offstage is just as important as onstage at Ford’s, which aspires to honor the legacy of Lincoln by exploring the American experience through theater and education. Roland’s job is to help develop … [Read more...]