Matthew Shepard's life came to an end in October 1998 at the age of 21. He died days after he was attacked by two men, tortured and left hanging on a fence for 18 hours. That attack in Laramie, Wyo., was labeled a hate crime after a girlfriend of one of the attackers said Shepard was singled out because he was gay.

Shepard's story lives on through the "Laramie Project," a play about the impact of the murder on the small Western city.

"I believe theatre has the power to create meaningful dialogue," said Mollie Mook-Fiddler, who is directing the play at San Juan College's Little Theater.

 Cast members rehearse a scene from "The Laramie Project" during dress rehearsal Monday at San Juan College.
Cast members rehearse a scene from "The Laramie Project" during dress rehearsal Monday at San Juan College. ( San Juan College Photography Class)

"The play has been performed in colleges all over the country for that reason," Mook-Fiddler said. "The play asks us to look at ourselves as a society, it asks us to look at the role media plays in how we form our world view. It looks at what ingredients or ideas tend to be at play when this type of violence occurs.

"I hope it allows people the opportunity to think about the themes presented. I hope it sparks dialogue and healthy debate. If it does this, then I believe we have done our job."

Mook-Fiddler said her favorite character is Father Rodger Schmidt.

"He talks about the place where violence begins ... he describes it as a thought, or an unkind word," Mook-Fiddler said. "He talks about those moments as 'the seeds of violence' I think there is a lot of wisdom in that."

The "Laramie Project" will be performed Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. An earlier show will be performed on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors, and can be purchased at sanjuancollege.edu/silhouette. Because of its adult content, the "Laramie Project" is not recommended for children under 13. Call the San Juan College Box office at 505-566-3430 for more information.