Newark Academy teen actors welcome Cathy Renna

LIVINGSTON, NJ — Newark Academy’s Arts Department presents “The Laramie Project” as this year’s fall drama on Nov. 1, 2 and 3 at 7 p.m. “The Laramie Project” is based on the true story of Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student who, in October 1998, was beaten to death in Laramie, Wyo. The murder was denounced as a hate crime and brought attention to the lack of hate crime laws in various states, including Wyoming.

On Oct. 16, almost 20 years from when play director Moises Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project interviewed the people in Laramie, Cathy Renna, a longtime media activist and communications expert on LGBTQ issues who continues to work closely with the Shepard family and the Matthew Shepard Foundation, will join NA students at rehearsal and discuss the presentation of characters and how the students are portraying them.

Renna was an advocate working for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation in 1998 and played a central role in shaping the media coverage after the horrific event unfolded. She was in Laramie right after the public was made aware of Shepard’s death, as well as for the events that followed, including the trials of the perpetrators.

“We first staged this challenging play back in 2002, and now we are bringing it back to the NA stage in honor of the 20th anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death,” Newark Academy Arts Department Chair Elaine Brodie said.

For more information on the show at Newark Academy, visit