laramie project

Spirit of Dru Scholarship Winner: Alyssa Sileo

Throughout the month of July, we will be sharing the inspiring essays from our Spirit of Dru Scholarship recipients. Please enjoy Alyssa Sileo's - she will be attending Drew University(!!!) this fall.



Alyssa Sileo

It has never been a want to advocate that has driven all of my actionsーit has been a need. My creative and coming out journeys ran parallel courses, and this was no coincidence. Ever since I realized my own queerness I have made sure my pride is always more than a statement. Instead, I make it a project.

My mantra is that artists must be the caretakers of equality. Forwarding unity and inclusion through arts is the perfect way to look past differences, because any person can add to a story. I believe the stage is the perfect place to get messages across, with the honesty and vulnerability required by the creators.

I’m the founder of "The Laramie Project" Project (LPP), an international theatre advocacy initiative that fights for the end of discriminatory violence by honoring hate crime victims with worldwide performances of the acclaimed Tectonic Theater Project play that chronicles the Matthew Shepard story. 

The LPP educates audiences and casts on a turning point of LGBTQ+ history while clarifying that hate crimes are still ravaging marginalized communities. By honoring the Pulse victims and sharing the stories of the incidents that are associated with the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act (heavily under-reported in the media), we are calling on LPPers to hold institutions accountable. The compelling message of Laramie drives a person to rethink their perceptions about the supposed safety of the queer community, whereas the truth is that there’s a long way to go.

To date, there are 67 registered events from 23 states and 4 other countries, representing Thespian Troupes and GSAs, colleges, theatre companies, and community groups.  

Phase 3 of the LPP is an effort to advocate for The Dru Project by connecting 32 Laramies to honor Drew’s 32 years of life. We are mobilizing high schools from many states (especially those with active GSAs) to fight for their Florida student peers with fundraising and awareness, since the future of queer liberation lies in the safety and empowerment of youth.

A latent function of the LPP is to inspire people in the audience or cast who has a project inside them but doesn’t know where to start. I make the story of my LPP journey as available as I can so others can know how quickly and wildly this all happenedーhow impulsive but thoughtful activism must be.

I remember how seeing productions with queer representation, like Rent and Fun Home, right around the time that I was coming out, were the experiences that locked-in my own pride and drove me to put this on the stage for others who need this affirmation. 

Drew Leinonen’s compassion, humor, and advocacy manifests in any person who works to make a space safe for someone else. I believe in the power of friendship, camaraderie, and legacy. I believe in the life-saving work of The Dru Project and the surge of GSA presence and programming, and I pledge my commitment to availability for the youth of the queer community.