Monday, October 24, 2016
Margaret Nolan has worked diligently to bring "After Orlando" to the stage. Usually it takes years for a theater production to come to life. In Orlando, nerves are still raw, so Margaret felt it was important to bring After Orlando to the stage only months after the Pulse shooting. "It was a labor of love. [I've] been steeped in it daily since the 1st week of July and it's taken an emotional toll....but so worth it to present these important plays and project to honor the Pulse tragedy." Margaret wrote me. The event was sold out.
After the Pulse tragedy NYC creators Zac Kline and Blair Baker invited fellow theater artists to create short plays and poetic pieces as a response to create something with heart, and spirit. After Orlando is now a collective of over seventy playwrights from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Uganda. Plays are being presented in venues and universities all over the work and will be published in an anthology by No Passport Press.
Margaret commissioned and curated Orlando based writers to join in the conversation. The evening consisted of 20 short plays with ten local playwrights showcasing their talents. My short film, "Finger on the Pulse" was screened right after intermission. As I entered the theater, Paul Casteneda said he was close tears watching the film at the last rehearsal. There were tech issues but they were resolved right before the opening. My favorite play was written by young playwright Rose Helsinger. Called "Albino Crocodile". It was a monologue be young actress who witnessed a gay classmate being bullied in the school halls. The bullying centered around a mispronunciation of Albino. Albino Crocodiles have blood red eyes and beautiful white skin. When an albino goes to the watering hole all the other crocks go "Hey what is this? We can be seen around the likes of you." At a girls slumber party conversations turned to boy crushes. One girl confided that she had a crush on another girl. She was shunned like the albino. She however stood resolute finding a strength and joy in being herself.
A Poem by Aradhana Tiwari called "I remember I am a Rainbow" got me choked up. The poem started showcasing a storm's approach and violence. Despite the turbulence and darkness the rainbow emerged to explain the joyful meaning behind it's every color. It was somewhere around the description of a yellow bird chirping happily and taking flight that I broke down. It was a dark theater. I didn't have to wipe away the tears.
Other heart wrenching plays, had actors exchanging messages and phone calls in a desperate attempt to find out if loved ones were lost. Janine Klein had an incredibly powerful monologue as a mom getting ready for bed and seeking silence from social media. Her sleep is disturbed by phone calls and she discovers her son is among the missing. Janine grew desperate, hoping her son was alright. Her love was palpable even as she described the tattoo he loved and she hated. She faced the possibility that her son might be forever silent.
The final play, had all the actors on the stage. I imagine the final production would have 49 actors. Rebecca Fisher recited a series of joyful phrases beginning with "Today is a good day to..." Tell someone you love them, hug a stranger, to take dance lessons, to sky dive... All the statements came from the obituaries found for the 49 victims in the Orlando Sentinel. It ended the evening on a high note, reminding us all to live life to the fullest. Life is a gift that is all too short. Part of me wants to shut down, to steer dear of the pain. But compassion and hurt bubbles to the surface any time I see OrIando's Creative community unite to answer bigotry and hate with an enlightened response. As Paul Castineda said, "I'm proud of all my fellow artists."