Matthew Shepard was a young college student at the University of Wyoming at Laramie. On the night of October 6, 1998 he met Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson in the Fireside Bar. Apparently he confided to them that he was gay and they posed as homosexuals to trick him into going with him. Sometime during that night he was robbed, beaten, and left tied to a buck fence on a deserted lane on the outskirts of Laramie. Matthew died from those wounds and from exposure on October 12, 1998. Matthew's death was one of the most heavily covered media stories of the year. The coverage continued through Henderson's guilty plea on April 5, 1999 and McKinney's subsequent trial and conviction. The coverage gave focus to the issues of homopphobia, hate-crimes, gay-bashing, religious attitudes toward homosexuality, and ultimately, the death penalty.
In November 1998, ten New Yorkers set out for Laramie, Wyoming, to explore a town and a crime that occurred there. After interviewing more than 200 residents, they created a deeply moving play about bigotry and tolerance, fear and courage, hate and hope.