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Clint Lienau

Living Newspaper
Death of Matthew Shepard
Characters
Announcer
Matthew
Russell
Aaron
Beatrice
(The stage is dark. Lights come up on a T- shaped fence post, above which is a sign that reads,
Laramie, Wyoming. Lights up on the Announcer, who is dressed in a gray suit. He speaks into an
old model standing microphone.)
Announcer Fort Collins, Colorado. Matthew Shepard, 21, the gay college student who was
kidnapped, robbed, and pistol whipped, died here today, five days after he was rescued from a
Wyoming ranch where he had been left tied to a fence for 18 hours in near-freezing temperatures.
Russell A. Henderson, 21, and Aaron J. McKinney, 22, were charged with attempted murder and are
expected to face first-degree murder charges that could bring the death penalty. (Russel and Aaron
enter and stand on either side of the fence post. Lights go down on the post but stay highlighting them)
The Laramie police have said they believe robbery was the primary motive for the attack, which
occurred outside a bar. But investigators also said Mr. Shepard's sexual orientation was a factor. They
said the suspects lured Mr. Shepard from the bar by saying they too were gay.
(Sounds of dance music, clinking glasses and partying. Matthew enters, looking a bit inebriated.
Russell and Aaron exchange a look then approach him, smiling. Music fades)
Russell Hey there, you need a ride home?
Matthew (smiling and slurring his words a little) Yeah that'd be great. Thanks, cutie. (Russell's
smile drops. Matthew notices and shakes his head) Sorry, sorry I'm just a little drunk and Aaron (laughs as he walks forward slowly) Don't worry about it, sweetheart. We're gay too. Russell
was just a little surprised. Right, Russ? (He looks at Russell, who starts to smile again, though with
visible effort)
Russell Of course. That's why we approached you in the first place. There's a special place we want
to take you before we take you home. Would that be ok?
Matthew (looking relieved) Yeah sure that's fine. Thanks.
(The trio walk offstage and the stage goes dark. Sound of a car starting and driving away, then
approaching and stopping. Lights up on the post. Matthew and Aaron walk on, followed closely by
Matthew)
Aaron Here we are. Now, (he turns and smiles at Matthew, who smiles back) why don't you give us
your wallet?

Matthew (smile fades) What?


Russell (Drawing a pistol from his jacket and moves so Matthew is between him and Aaron) He said
to give us your wallet, fag.
(Aaron grabs Matthew and throws him to the ground. They begin to punch and kick him mercilessly
while Matthew screams, Stop, Why are you doing this, etc. Finally Russell lifts the pistol and
brings it down on the side of Matthew's head. There is a loud crack and Matthew goes limp, moaning
softly but no longer speaking)
Russell (putting the pistol away) Tie him to the post over there. I don't want his faggot AIDS blood
all over my car.
(The two boys lift Matthew up, looping his arms over the horizontal beam of the post. Aaron produces
a rope and wraps it around Matthew a few times before tying it off. Then they laugh and run offstage.
There is the sound of a car driving off. All lights fade except the light on Matthew hanging from the
post. Lights up on the Announcer)
Announcer Mr. Shepard suffered a dozen cuts to his head, face, and neck, as well as a massive, and
ultimately fatal, blow to the back of his skull. He was found by a passerby, who mistook him for a
scarecrow. Beatrice Dohrn, legal director of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education fund, said today
that Mr. Shepard's death resembled the Old West practice of nailing a dead coyote to a ranch fence as a
warning to future invaders.
(Beatrice enters and stands beside the post. She is moderately dressed and middle aged, and speaks
with a controlled voice masking inner sadness)
Beatrice The University of Wyoming student was beaten and left to die, tied to a fence like an animal
because he was honest and open about being gay. Matthew Shepard's horrible suffering and death
cannot be dismissed simply as the fault of deranged, isolated individuals. His attackers are among the
millions of Americans who constantly hear the message that gay people are not worthy of the most
basic equal treatment.
(Lights go down US, leaving only the Announcer illuminated.)
Announcer In 1996, 21 men and women were killed in the United States because of their sexual
orientation, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama group that tracks violence
against minorities. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, sexual orientation was a factor in
11.6 percent of the 8,759 hate crimes recorded in 1996. (An image appears on the backdrop of the
rainbow flag flying at half mast. Lights up again on the now empty post.) Gay leaders hope that Mr.
Shepard's death will galvanize Congress and state legislatures to pass hate-crime legislation or broaden
existing laws. Ten states, including Wyoming, have no hate-crime laws, or none based on specific
categories.
(Lights down on the Announcer leaving only the post and the flag image illuminated. After a few beats,
blackout)

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