One of the most performed plays in America today is on stage in Ellesmere Port this week.

Forty five performing arts students at West Cheshire College studying acting and technical theatre are to put on four performances of The Laramie Project by Moises Kaufman.

The production is based on the true story of an American town in the wake of the 1998 murder of a university student.

Matthew Shepard was kidnapped, severely beaten and left to die tied to a fence on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming.

The drama is taking place in the John Prescott Theatre on the college’s Ellesmere Port campus on Wednesday, May 25 and Thursday, May 26 at 2pm and 7pm.

Real life

Student Stephen Boyle, who plays multiple roles representing three witnesses in the story, has been fortunate enough to speak to a police officer involved in the 1998 investigation and whose character features predominately in the play.

The 17-year-old from Ellesmere Port said: “Being part of the production has been such an amazing experience, heightened by the fact that it is based on true events.

“The other students and I feel really privileged to be involved and to be able to get a true understanding of how many people’s lives were originally affected. The story is really gripping and touches so many hearts.

“Because of its subject, there are some difficult scenes. However the tutors at the college have been an amazing support and helped us every step of the way. We couldn’t have done it without them.”

Related story: Ellesmere Port drama students tackle mental health on stage

First hand experience

Stephen, who is studying level 3 acting and is in his second year, added: “I’m also really grateful that I was able to successfully make contact with one of the police officers involved in the original investigation. Hearing first-hand about her experience has been really inspirational.”

Paul Moss, programme leader in performing arts at the college, said: “The goal of The Laramie Project is to promote thoughtful discussion about the prejudice that the LGBT community often faces in contemporary society and to give audiences the opportunity to hear different points-of-view.

“Our students are so excited about being able to showcase their talents and have worked really hard on their performances and on the production.

“It’s fantastic that Stephen has been able to speak with the American police officer involved and has struck up such a great rapport with her, exchanging text messages and even talking via Skype.

“The retired officer has been incredibly supportive and has been really impressed with Stephen and with his American accent that he has embraced for the show”.

Tickets for the event are £5 or £3 concessions. To book call 01244 656 301 or 01244 656 302.