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Lee Street theatre to Screen Film, "Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine," in Salisbury

March 29, 2015

Category: Alumni, Events


mattshepard.jpgOn the night of October 6, 1998, two young men lured Matthew Shepard, a gay student from the University of Wyoming, from a bar in Laramie, Wyoming. Matthew was kidnapped, driven to a field, tortured, tied to a fence and left to die. Matthew never regained consciousness. Succumbing to the severe injuries sustained during the attack, he died on October 12, 1998.

The murder of Matthew Shepard made headlines around the world. Family, friends, classmates, and the LGBT community were devastated by the cruelty of this crime, and a much-needed conversation about hate and intolerance spurred by these events continues to this day. Matthew's tragic death inspired the "Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act", which was signed in 2009 by President Barack Obama.

Nearly 16 years after Matthew's death, his friend and first time filmmaker Michele Josue, traveled to pivotal locations in Shepard's life, interviewing other friends and family members to learn more about the man behind the tragedy. The film, Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine, is a beautiful depiction of Matt, the young man, and the devastating loss felt by family, friends, and the world.

The film has been shown at notable film festivals around the globe and is in limited release in the United States. Critical and audience praise for the film is overwhelming. John Darnielle of Slate said, "Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine seeks to restore Shepard's humanity to his name, to tell the story of the person who was murdered for being who he was." Nicolas Rapold of the New York Times said the film is "a tender reconstruction of personal loss." Prior to his time at UW, Matthew Shepard attended Catawba College, where he befriended classmates and faculty alike, some of which still call Salisbury, North Carolina home. For those that knew him, the brutality of his murder still resonates today. Word about the film's opening quickly spread across social media, coming to the attention of sponsors Robert and Tara Van Geons. As Robert, a ’97 alumnus of Catawba, is among some of the many friends Matthew made during his time at Catawba College, they decided to approach Lee Street theatre about hosting a screening of the film. With the support of Executive Producer Liam McNiff, the Van Geons' and Lee Street theatre have teamed up to bring Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine to Salisbury for a one-night only engagement.

"For us, this is very personal," said Robert. "It's really simple. Matt Shepard was my friend, and I can't think of a better way of remembering him than to share his story."

"We are absolutely honored to have the opportunity to show this moving and important film at Lee Street theatre" said Justin Dionne, the managing artistic director.

Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine will be screened at the Lee Street Theatre & Performing Arts Center at the Tom & Martha Smith Event Center on Thursday, April 23, 2015 at 7:00pm. Tickets are $5 plus NC State Sales Tax and can be purchased online at www.leestreet.org/tickets . Seated is limited.