Reaction to the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard in Colorado led to "The Laramie Project," a heralded stage production by the Tectonic Theatre Project that is still relevant today.

The play, based on news accounts and interviews by Tectonic members, opens on Jan. 24 at the Masquers Playhouse in Point Richmond.

Shepard was a college student in Laramie, Wyo. who was killed in a particularly brutal manner and solely because he was gay.

"The Laramie Project is as much of a story about love, hope and healing, as it is about the unfathomable crime that catapulted the town into the media maelstrom," said Masquers director Michael Sally, noting that Shepard's death led to the enactment of hate crime legislation.

"This story is as important today, what with the recent brutal victimization of transgendered identified adolescent on a bus in Oakland, as it was in 1998," Sally said. "We cannot forget and must be diligent in our advocacy against hate crimes."

Jayme Catalano, Alan Coyne, Tim Holt, Avi Jacobson, Kristine Ann Lowry, Carl Smith, Loralee Windsor, and Vicki Zabarte make up the Masquers cast.

Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Feb. 22, with 2 p.m. Sunday matinees on Feb. 2, 9 and 16 at the Masquers Playhouse, 105 Park Place in Point Richmond.

Tickets and details are available at www.masquers.org or 510-232-4031.

RIDE FOR RICH: Donations are needed for a bicycle fundraising ride on March 8 to assist longtime Pinole fire Capt. Rich Voisey, who was diagnosed with brain cancer at Thanksgiving.

Friends and supporters are securing Ride for Rich pledges and participation for the Solvang Century ride, with proceeds going to ensure Voisey receives proper treatment.

Learn more at www.gofundme.com/rideforrich.

WEST COUNTY NOTES: Richmond is holding a Chinese New Year Party with dining and entertainment from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 25 at the Richmond Memorial Auditorium, 403 Civic Center Plaza.

Along with a seated dinner there will be performances all evening, including the dragon dance.

Tickets are $15 to $20 each, available at the Richmond Senior Center, 2525 Macdonald Ave., or call 510-307-8085 or 510-620-6793 for more details. No tickets will be sold at the door.

  • The Albany High School jazz band and El Cerrito High School jazz ensemble were both awarded a unanimous superior ranking at the annual Jazz Fest East hosted by the California Music Educators on Jan. 18 at Northgate High in Walnut Creek.

  • The totals are in for the annual December donation drive in Albany. The collection included 2,000 pounds of food, 700 toys and 600 coats. The items were given to nonprofit organization Operation Dignity for distribution at the Albany Temporary Transition Shelter, the Bay Area Rescue Mission in Richmond, and the Alameda County Food Bank.

  • The annual meeting of the El Cerrito Trail Trekkers group is set for 2 p.m. Jan. 26 in the Harding Park clubhouse, 7115 C St. in El Cerrito.

    Group President Dave Weinstein will cover accomplishments of the past year and upcoming challenges and Dave Gehling will present a slide show on El Cerrito wildlife. Along with voting for officers, attendees will also have refreshments to enjoy. Details: www.ectrailtrekkers.org.

  • A free class showing how to get a head start on this year's home vegetable garden will be offered from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 5 at the Richmond Public Library, 325 Civic Center Plaza.

    The class will cover "how to start your vegetable garden inside to get a jump-start" on spring planting, say host groups Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library and the Richmond Rivets. "We will cover the basics, from preparing your equipment through hardening-off the seedlings in preparation for transplanting."

    Participants are asked to register in advance to allow organizers an idea of how many to expect and so that handouts can be emailed beforehand. Registration and details are online at www.richmondgrowsseeds.org.

    Contact Chris Treadway at 510-262-2784 or ctreadway@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/christreadway. Stay up-to-date on West Contra Costa news at IBABuzz.com/westcounty.