Memphis–Focus Mid-South magazine, OUTMemphis and WKNO-Memphis present the film “Considering Matthew Shepard” at Playhouse on the Square on October 16 at 6:30 p.m. The event is free.

Created by KLRU-TV Austin (Texas) PBS for the small screen, “Considering Matthew Shepard” is a Grammy-nominated three-part oratorio composed by Craig Hella Johnson and performed by the Conspirare choral group. The work is an evocative and compassionate musical response to the murder of Matthew Shepard. Viewers will hear parts of the oratorio with commentary from the composer and well-known members of the LGBT community. Combined with historical footage and photos, the production is immensely emotional both in the music and in the story of Shepard’s life and death. A brief panel discussion will follow.

 

Conspirare ensemble led by Craig Hella Johnson. Photo courtesy KLRU-TV, Austin PBS. Photo by Sam Butler.

 

For those unfamiliar with Shepard’s story, on October 6, 1998, University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was kidnapped, beaten, and left to die in what became an infamous act of brutality and one of America’s most notorious anti-gay hate crimes.

Shepard’s murder ultimately led to the creation of the Matthew Shepard Foundation and provided a catalyst for legislation that expanded the definition of a hate crime to include sexual orientation. In 2009, Congress passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

The music’s composer, Craig Johnson, had a profoundly personal reaction to both the murder and its resonance. The Shepard family and Foundation engaged with Johnson in the creation of the work and allowed the use of fragments from Shepard’s personal diary.

The screening is co-sponsored by Focus® Mid-South Magazine, OUTMemphis, and offered by The Matthew Shepard Foundation and WKNO Memphis.

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