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04/19/2007


Brendon Ayanbadejo Pens Open Letter to Ole Miss on LGBT Inclusivity Following Heckling Incident

Brendon AyanbadejoIn an open letter posted on Fox Sports today, Brendon Ayanbadejo offered to help the University of Mississippi's educational outreach on LGBT inclusivity following reports earlier this week of a mass heckling of a student production of 'The Laramie Project,' the Moises Kaufman play about the Matthew Shepard murder. Approximately 20 Ole Miss football players were involved in the heckling incident, with reports of some calling cast members 'fags.'

Says Ayanbadejo, in part:

The alleged behavior of Ole Miss football players along with freshmen from other sports and students attending the play to fulfill some underclassmen requirements is abhorrent and unacceptable.

I blame the administration as much as I blame the athletes. This is a graphic play and a graphic production. People need to have an idea of what they are getting themselves into.

In no way do I condone this behavior but you need to have a conversation with these athletes when they set foot on any campus as to what is expected from them as representatives of the university.

This is why the work of Athlete Ally and groups like the Gay Straight Alliance, which serves as a bridge for gay and straight students in high school to form an alliance of inclusivity and nondiscriminatory behavior is so important.

Unfortunately everyone was not raised with the morality and values to treat all people equally.

A representative of the Ole Miss athletes allegedly apologized - after being prompted by a member of the school's academic staff - but many didn't quite understand what they were apologizing for. [...]

So before Ole Miss is quick to hand down punishment I would like to see them take a more holistic and proactive approach in educating students and student athletes alike. All you have to do is reach out and I will be happy to discuss how I can help you take the next step."

You can read the full letter HERE

(photo via Instagram)


20 Ole Miss Football Players Heckle 'Laramie Project' Production, Call Students 'Fags'

Approximately 20 Ole Miss football players were involved in a mass heckling incident at a University of Mississippi production of The Laramie Project, the Moises Kaufman play about the Matthew Shepard murder.

The Daily Mississippian reports: Olemiss

According to the play's director and theater faculty member Rory Ledbetter, some audience members used derogatory slurs like "fag" and heckled both cast members and the characters they were portraying for their body types and sexual orientations. Ledbetter said the audience's reactions included "borderline hate speech."

The football players were at the play because of a theater course requirement.

Said Ledbetter:

"The football players were certainly not the only audience members that were being offensive last night. But they were definitely the ones who seemed to initiate others in the audience to say things, too. It seemed like they didn't know that they were representing the university when they were doing these things."

Junior theater major Garrison Gibbons said the incident offered a real-life example of the play's subject matter: “I am the only gay person on the cast. I played a gay character in the show, and to be ridiculed like that was something that really made me realize that some people at Ole Miss and in Mississippi still can’t accept me for who I am.”


Towleroad Guide to the Tube #1139

MY PERSON: The latest clip from The Devotion Project features a trans man and his family.

CHINA: Hero bus driver hit by metal shard and killed, but not before he saves his passengers.

727: Oregon man lives in a renovated passenger jet.

THE LARAMIE PROJECT: The feature film of Moises Kaufman's play about Matthew Shepard.

For recent Guides to the Tube, click HERE.


Voice of Matthew Shepard's Killer to Feature in Laramie Epilogue

Mckinney

In August I posted about the 80-minute epilogue to The Laramie Project which was to open on the 11th anniversary of Matthew Shepard's death. Some new details: the show will be opening at more than 130 theaters simultaneously on October 12.

The AP reports that a major segment of the show features testimony from Aaron McKinney (above, center), whom gay actor/writer Greg Pierotti interviewed for more than 10 hours:

Shepard

"According to the detailed notes taken by Pierotti and condensed into the new script, McKinney says he had been drawn to crime ever since childhood, feels sympathy for Shepard's parents and expresses regret that he let his own father down. 'As far as Matt is concerned, I don't have any remorse,' McKinney is quoted as saying in the script, which was provided to The Associated Press by the production company. McKinney, according to the script, reiterates his claim that the 1998 killing in Laramie, Wyo., started out as a robbery, but makes clear that his antipathy toward gays played a role. 'The night I did it, I did have hatred for homosexuals,' McKinney is quoted as saying. He goes on, according to the script, to say that he still dislikes gays and that his perceptions about Shepard's sex life bolstered his belief that the killing was justified. McKinney and his accomplice, Russell Henderson, targeted Shepard at a bar in Laramie in part because they assumed he was gay, according to the script. 'Well, he was overly friendly. And he was obviously gay,' McKinney is quoted as saying. 'That played a part ... his weakness. His frailty. And he was dressed nice. Looked like he had money.'"

Of Judy Shepard's ongoing work against hate crimes, McKinney says: "...she never shuts up about it, and it's been like 10 years."

Pierotti says he wanted to address whether or not the murder was a hate crime, a question raised by a sensationalist 20/20 segment by Elizabeth Vargas in 2004 claiming the murder was motivated by drugs.

Adds Pierotti: "He's perfectly comfortable acknowledging he doesn't like gay people, and for me it was unnerving to experience his lack of remorse. Yet I feel very protective of him — not in an apologist way, but I see he has a lot of complexity. ... As an artist, it's more interesting to dig into who this person is."

The New York performance, which will take place at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center, will reportedly be connected to all the other performances by the internet with a live question-and-answer session following the debut.


80-Minute Epilogue to The Laramie Project in the Works

On the 11th anniversary of Matthew Shepard's death, this October 11, at least 40 and up to 100 regional theaters across the U.S. will debut an 80-minute "epilogue" to The Laramie Project, the NYT reports:

Shepard "Moisés Kaufman, the playwright and director who, with his Tectonic Theater Project company, wrote and produced the first 'Laramie Project,' said the epilogue would explore the impact of the Shepard killing on the residents of Laramie, Wyo., where it occurred. The dialogue will be drawn from interviews with dozens of people there, some of whom were involved in the crime, including Aaron McKinney, who was convicted of murdering Mr. Shepard and who gave an interview to the Tectonic artists. 'We wanted to see what occurs in a small town in the long run when it’s been subject to such a devastating event,' Mr. Kaufman said in an interview. 'What has been the long-lasting effect of this watershed moment? Is the fallout of these events positive, negative or perhaps a better question, is it measurable in those terms?' In holding multiple premieres of the play on the same night, Mr. Kaufman said he was taking a page from the Federal Theater Project, the New Deal program that often opened plays in a multitude of cities on the same night."

The New York performance, which will take place at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center, will be connected to all the other performances by the internet with a live question-and-answer session following the debut.

Big Opening for Epilogue to ‘The Laramie Project’ [nyt]

JedediahKaufman and collaborators Stephen Belber, Leigh Fondakowski, Andy Paris and Greg Pierotti interviewed Laramie residents and people involved in the original Laramie Project last fall and posted some of the excerpts from those interviews on YouTube in June.

Watch the excerpts, AFTER THE JUMP...

Kaufman wrote, in a blog entry of September 13 on the first day of interviews: "It's important to remember that Laramie was very hurt not only by the brutal murder but by the media portrayal of it as a town of "rednecks and hillbillies and cowboys" which of course it's not. What we found so interesting about Laramie is not how different it is from the rest of the country, but how similar. Ten years ago we heard so many times people cry out against the media portrayal: 'We're not like this!'. The town's reputation had been tarnished. And there's still the need for many people to 'set the record straight'. Several of the interviewees talked about burnout. There's still so much work to do in the state. And too many people who want to 'put this behind them'."

Watch the excerpted interviews, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "80-Minute Epilogue to The Laramie Project in the Works" »


Exclusive: A Conversation on 33 Variations
Kevin Sessums Talks to Jane Fonda and Moises Kaufman

33variations  

GuestbloggerKEVIN SESSUMS

I recently had a conversation with Moises Kaufman and Jane Fonda. Kaufman’s play, 33 Variations, opens on March 9th at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre on Broadway with Fonda as its leading lady. She plays a musicologist who is trying to solve the mystery of Beethoven spending so much time writing 33 variations based on a short waltz by Anton Diabelli. She, like the composer, is battling against time. He was going deaf. She has a life-threatening disease. Among her costars are Samantha Mathis, who plays the daughter with whom she’s had difficulties and Colin Hanks — yes, Tom’s son — who plays her nurse.

Fonda_kaufman Kaufman is the writer and director of Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde and The Laramie Project. He directed, among other plays, I Am My Own Wife and Liev Schreiber’s Macbeth at the Public Theatre. He is the artistic director of the Tectonic Theater Project.

We all know Fonda’s credits — or many of them. She’s been at this for fifty years. I ask after a mutual friend, Pat Newcomb, who was the publicist for everyone from Marilyn Monroe to Barbra Streisand to Warren Beatty. “You know I took Pat to the Czech Republic right after the Velvet Revolution and we met Vaclav Havel,” she says, smiling at the memory and petting her small Coton de Tulear dog named Tulea who is curled in her lap.

I recall the first time I ever met her. “It was years ago,” I tell her and mention one of my best friends from college who became one of her closest Hollywood pals for a while. We all had dinner at Joe Allen.

“It couldn’t have been that many years ago,” she said.

“Yeah. It was,” I tell her. “Maybe the early ‘80s. We each had vestiges of a shag and you showed up with your stepmother.”

She laughs.. “I’ve had several. Which one?” she asks.

“I think her name was Susan.”

“Oh, yes, yes. Susan! Yes. Now I remember.”

“I walked you back to your hotel and you told a rather risque joke about arriving at The Pearly Gates and the conversation that ensued with Saint Peter. I remember thinking to myself — shit — Jane Fonda is funny. Who knew she was funny?

JANE FONDA: I’ve gotten funnier. I had to keep up with Ted Turner. He’s hysterical. You’ve got to have a sense of humor to be married to Ted Turner.

KEVIN SESSUMS: That could be a compliment or an insult. He allowed you to get more in touch with your own sense of humor?

JF: Well, he allowed me to ... ah ... well... yeah. That’s all. Yeah.

KS: After your divorce from him, you kept living in Atlanta. Do you consider yourself a Southerner now?

JF: Yes, I do. I’ve lived there for over 18 years.

KS: Moises, we met at the “Mormon March” after Prop 8 passed in California and we New Yorkers took to the streets in solidarity. We were both rendezvousing with some guys at the Barnes and Noble next to the Mormon Visitors Center. I was with my old boyfriend Peter Staley.

MOISES KAUFMAN: Yes, of course. We were meeting Tony Kushner and his husband, Mark Harris. Doug Wright and his husband, David Clement. To be demonstrating with Tony in front of the Mormon Visitors Center — because that’s where half of Angels in America takes place — was very moving.

KS: It had the dramatic contours of a Moises Kaufman play.

MK: Yes, I guess it did, didn’t it. I was very moved that night.

JF: Someone emailed Moises a picture of me with Harvey Milk during a “No on Prop 6” march.

KS: Well, honey, you do have a history of marches. I’d expect you to have a picture with Harvey Milk.

JF: It’s why I loved Sean’s performance so much. I knew Harvey and he totally got him.

Continued, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Exclusive: A Conversation on 33 Variations
Kevin Sessums Talks to Jane Fonda and Moises Kaufman" »


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