Clinton Walker is an openly gay homophobe.
And the visiting Guild director isn’t ashamed to admit it.
In fact, with his upcoming production of The Laramie Project, Walker hopes to reveal the inner homophobe in all of us.
“I asked the actors to assess their own homophobia,” he said, sitting in his sunny, Valleyview bed-and-breakfast.
The question took most of them by surprise.
After all, by auditioning for The Laramie Project - a piece of journalistic theatre documenting the after-effects of a gay hate crime in small-town Wyoming - the actors assume a certain open-mindedness.
But nobody is impervious, said Walker.
The Toronto-based director has an aversion to overtly flaming behaviour.
“I found I steered away from men who were extremely effeminate,” he said.
“I’ve realized the part I did not like in them was the part of myself I was trying to quash.
“It’s based in all that left-over crap from when we were kids.”
Even though he struggles with his own ingrained prejudice, Walker wasn’t sure how relevant The Laramie Project was anymore.
Tolerance has risen considerably since 1998, when Matthew Shepard was beaten, tied to a fence outside Laramie, Wyoming, and left to die.
Then, between conversations with Gay and Lesbian Alliance of Yukon’s Stephen Dunbar, who spearheaded the local production, something terrible happened in Walker’s hometown.
A young man was walking home from Toronto’s club district, after celebrating his sister’s birthday, when he was jumped and beaten by two guys. They then threw him in the road and ran over him a couple times.
The young gay man died.
“I was under the belief we were moving forward,” said Walker.
“What a sad and terrible way to realize this play still has to be done.”
After Shepard’s murder, Moises Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theatre Project went to Laramie and interviewed more than 60 people about the crime, from politicians and cops to lifelong friends of the perpetrators. The result is an eight-person, three-act play that is more documentary storytelling than traditional theatre.
“Every word you hear has been spoken by a living, breathing person,” said Walker.
“It’s a very immediate and intimate experience.”
The Laramie Project deals with some heavy material, but it’s also uplifting, he says.
“It’s about a community healing itself.
“Because of Shepard dying, there’s a whole community of people who grew - spiritually and emotionally.”
But Walker is careful not to turn Shepard into a martyr.
“He didn’t die for anybody or any cause,” said Walker. “He would have chosen life.”
Walker’s focus on the community’s transformation after Shepard’s death was heightened by his experiences in Whitehorse.
When he first arrived, he wasn’t sure what to expect. “I didn’t know if people would be angry this show is happening,” he said.
But after only one day in the city, Walker knew he had nothing to worry about.
However, even forward-thinking, progressive communities carry dark undertones, as the recent Toronto murder illustrates.
“On the surface everything is hunky dory and we have a giant ‘P’ and a giant ‘C’ hanging above us,” he said. “But I don’t know if that is necessarily the case.
“People are affected by fear, and I think that is where most hatred comes from.”
Walker wants Whitehorse to recognize itself in the play -“its faults and its successes.
“I’d love them to recognize the humanity in this play and let it mirror their own lives.”
The Laramie Project is running Wednesday through Saturday from February 11th through 27th. There’s a pay-what-you-can show on Wednesday February 17th. Curtain’s at 8 p.m.
Contact Genesee Keevil at