Shepard, a 21-year-old gay college student, died October 12, 1998, six days after being beaten and left for dead in Laramie, Wyoming, because of his sexuality. The Matthew Shepard Foundation and Tectonic Theater Project have spent the last two decades fighting to erase hate around the world through theater and activism.
Conceived and directed by Sue Kramer, the new #EraseHate PSA features Broadway’s Boys and the Band stars Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer, and Michael Benjamin Washington, plus Harvey Fierstein, Michael Urie, Mary Louise Parker, Bridget Moynahan, Annaleigh Ashford, and Pose’s Billy Porter.
The PSA notes that in the 20 years since Shepard’s murder, which ultimately inspired new federal hate crime legislation, more than 200,000 victims of hate crimes have been targeted because of their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
Dana Parish’s “Love Is Love (Laramie: A Legacy),” an original song featured in the PSA, is now on iTunes with all proceeds benefiting the Matthew Shepard Foundation.
“’Love is Love’ is the most important message we could put out, as songwriters and advocates for human rights and the LBGTQ community,” say songwriters Parish and Andy Hollander in a statement. “Sometimes songs write themselves, and this was surely one of them.”
In the weeks following Shepard’s murder, Tectonic Theater Project members traveled from New York to Laramie. Their interviews with the Laramie townspeople formed the basis of The Laramie Project, which has become one of the most performed contemporary plays in the world.
Additional videos highlighting the importance of theater and activism will be released leading up to Laramie: A Legacy, a one-night benefit reading of The Laramie Project, honoring Shepard’s life and legacy.
The star-studded benefit, directed by Tectonic founder and artistic director Moisés Kaufman, will be held September 24 at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College in New York City.
Watch the #EraseHate PSA below.