While homophobia still pervades, Dommer said calling southeast Iowa "homophobic" is a false blanket statement.
"There are definite people that are homophobic, but it's not that widespread epidemic here," he said.
Saunders agreed, saying overall, Ottumwa isn't homophobic.
"But there are teenagers, younger kids who maybe don't get out of the area very often to see the world in a bigger picture," she said. "At least this will make them think a little bit."
The play is supposed to make people question uncomfortable topics and encourage dialogue, Dommer said.
"It's to allow people to think, to express their ideas and do it in a civil way and get over this realm of hate," he said.
High school students are encouraged to try out in two weeks, but there are some roles for adults that could incorporate the community outside of the OHS drama department.
Saunders said Susan Burk, Laramie Project specialist with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, has indicated she may come to Ottumwa for the opening show. Burk was a television news reporter at the time and covered Shepard's murder, funeral and the ensuing trial.
"She's been a huge support system for us," Saunders said. "This is very personal to her, as well, because she knows the family."
Eidahl said the play was banned due to its "adult content." Soon after, national media picked up the story.
"Their shock is that this is still happening, that people are afraid to produce The Laramie Project," Saunders said of her friends in theatre across the nation. "This is something that really happened. It's no different than telling the story of an assassination or something else that's happened in our history.