My dear friends at Conspirare, the Grammy-winning ensemble led by Craig Hella Johnson based in Austin, Texas, made me cry today.
I checked the mail and found this letter, check, and hand-written note from the Artistic Administrator:
I'm grateful for the partial payment for our missed Robert Kyr program this April. But I am far, far more grateful for the compassion, empathy, and love from Craig, Ann, and the whole team at Conspirare, and my friends for life in the ensemble, who have all changed my life forever.
"In October of 1998, Matthew Shepard, a young, gay student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie was kidnapped, severely beaten, tied to a fence and left to die in a lonely field under a blanket of stars. Five days later, when Matt passed away, the world was watching. Approaching the eve of the 20th anniversary, Craig Hella Johnson has responded with his first concert-length work,Considering Matthew Shepard."
I still vividly remember my first performance with Conspirare, in the Fall of 2018, for their cross-country tour of 'Considering Matthew Shepard'.
Our first show was in Laramie, on the 20th anniversary of Matthew's death. At our first rehearsal, Craig sat us down, and asked us how we were feeling. We spent nearly an hour of a three-hour rehearsal talking about Matt, our lives, and our own personal struggles. Craig led the discussion with empathy and compassion and let us speak our minds.
I was a mess.
Everyone was a mess.
We made it through the show.
I collapsed backstage, weeping like a baby boy. The entire group enveloped me, giving each other knowing looks that read, "Mmmhmm, first 'Matthew Shepard' show. We know. We got you."
In the Q and A after the show with Matthew's mother and father, a high-school student from Southern California stood up and told us something I will never forget.
The student had never heard of Matt before last month, when he started rehearsal on the "Laramie Project", a play about Matt's life and death. The student talked about his own experience as a young gay man, being bullied in school. The cast flew out to Laramie, just to see our show. He thanked us and told us, after hearing Matt's story, he knew he wasn't alone anymore.
Thank you Ann and Craig for letting us know, we are not alone. As long as you and others support us, we will never be alone.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.