As part of a strategic expansion of its educational programming, the Matthew Shepard Foundation has brought theatre and broadcast journalism veteran Susan Cunningham Burk onto its staff as its first-ever “Laramie Project” Specialist.
Burk, a former radio and television news anchor and theatre professional, will lead and strengthen the Foundation’s support system for school and community productions of The Laramie Project, an award-winning play by the Tectonic Theater Project which relates the actual spoken stories of Laramie, Wyoming, residents in response to the 1998 anti-gay hate-crime murder of Matthew Shepard.
“We are delighted to expand on the help and advice we’ve been offering productions of this powerful play in order to ensure an educational and motivational experience for participants and audiences,” said Jason Marsden, the Foundation’s executive director. “Susan’s unique set of experiences in theatre, communications, nonprofit work and journalism, as well as her longstanding commitment to embracing diversity, made her a perfect fit for this work.”
Burk, who lives in the Shepard family’s hometown of Casper, Wyoming, will work to strengthen the Foundation’s existing outreach to productions, including educational materials, audience/cast “talk-back” sessions, production advice and historical context. She has also started to deepen the Foundation’s collaboration with Tectonic Theater Project, which created the show and its Epilogue, The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later. Plans include working in tandem with Tectonic to expand educational opportunities associated with The Laramie Project, helping theatre companies navigate issues that may surround their productions, and creating and strengthening ties within the online presence and forums of both organizations.
Since its debut in 2000, The Laramie Project has been seen by more than 30 million people worldwide on stage and in the HBO film production. It has been honored with numerous awards and award nominations for both the stage and film versions, including a “Making a Difference” Award from the Matthew Shepard Foundation in 2006.
The Matthew Shepard Foundation was established in 1998 by Judy and Dennis Shepard in memory of their 21-year-old son, who was murdered in an anti-gay hate crime in Wyoming in October 1998. Created to honor Matthew in a manner appropriate to his dreams, beliefs and aspirations, the Foundation seeks to “Replace Hate with Understanding, Compassion and Acceptance” through outreach, resources and advocacy programs and by continuing to tell Matthew’s story.
For more information about support for The Laramie Project, and the Matthew Shepard Foundation, visit www.matthewshepard.org.