Ferguson and the theater world's double standard for truth in art

In examining the responsibility of theater creators who present “true” stories on stage, it’s useful to look at some recent examples from the Left, that received a little more leeway. The first parallel that presents itself is Moises Kaufman’s 2000 play, “The Laramie Project.” Based on the tragic and brutal death of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man in Wyoming, “The Laramie Project” has become a staple in the regional, college and even high school canon since its premiere. A powerful and provocative work of art, “The Laramie Project” has also recently been shown to present an inaccurate version of historical events.

In his 2013 book, “The Book of Matt,” author Stephen Jimenez obliterates the common narrative of Shepard’s death. It was not a hate crime committed by two homophobes for no good reason, but rather a complicated tale of drug dealing gone wrong. The book’s biggest bombshell was that Shepard was killed by a man he had a sexual relationship with. While none of this minimizes the horror of Shepard’s killing, it does ask serious questions about when and how artists use true events to create their work—and, more importantly, how educators should use those works in teaching children.

When a high school uses a play like “The Laramie Project” to promote tolerance towards the LGBT community, it must hold itself to certain standards. The most basic being: are we teaching kids what really happened? Some parents (and students) at schools producing “The Laramie Project” have real concerns about this Progressive mythology being presented as fact to their children. Surely, if McAleer, who presents not a single word that wasn’t given in sworn testimony, is being held to the standard of “truth,” then “The Laramie Project” must be held to that standard. But clearly it is not. And it’s not the first time.