Wednesday, May 17, 2017

O-Town: Voices from Orlando


I was still reporting about the Orlando International Fringe Festival last year when the horrific shooting at the Pulse nightclub happened on June 12, 2016. Fringe is once again going to burst onto the Lock Haven Park complex bringing drama, and comedy for a solid week on unrelenting theater and fun. Last year after the shooting I asked Orlando artists to go to the Falcon Bar to create 49 portraits of the innocent lives lost at Pulse. Those 49 portraits were then exhibited at the Orlando Science Center and on that evening I was interviewed about the project. That interview then became the source of inspiration for a monologue in O-Town.

Prints of the 49 portraits hung behind the stage giving the somber impression of prison bars. The play is based on a series of interviews conducted mostly by David Lee, of people who have been affected by the tragedy. It opens with a monologue inspired by Our Town written by Thornton Wilder. The opening described Orlando on the eve of the shooting. People and places would be very different the next day. A homeless man would be lighting candles at the Dr Phillips memorial site each night, a costume shop owner would soon be creating thousands of rainbow ribbons...

I spoke with Christopher Hanson multiple times about how he survived that night at Pulse. The actor playing Christopher told the story of survival and personal responsibility with humor and lots of heart. Then the actor playing me took to the stage. I was surprised to find myself tearing up based on things I had said a year ago. It seems like a lifetime ago. People in the audience were also getting choked up. One woman cried through the whole show. I had just one paper towel I had decided to bring in from the men's room.

Other monologues described fighting hate with love using Angel Action Wings made of PVC and and white fabric. People who planned to protest the funerals of Pulse victims were blocked by these angels who would sing to drown out their hate. A first responders wife described how her husband was changed by his evening in the aftermath of Pulse. He would experience PTSD from that night onward and there was no disability for the mental anguish. Had be broken his leg then there would be help.

These stories are all part of the larger picture of an entire community trying to recover from a horrible act of violence. A year later and the scars are still there, but Orlando had answered with love and acceptance. Hateful people still thrive, feeling invulnerable in a country in which politics encourage hate and accusations.  They try to cause senseless harm, but love is stronger that hate. It was an emotional night. After the show. I was hugged by several people who recognized me. I shut my eyes and felt the warmth. Tears streamed down my face.

All the monologues in O-Town: Voices from Orlando will be presented together on the Eve of the one year mark of the attack on Pulse Nightclub on Sunday June 11, 2017 at 7pm at the John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center in the Margeson Theater. Profits will benefit the onePulse Foundation.org.

I can't recommend this show enough. The monologues focus the audiences attention on aspects of the tragedy that never made their way to mainstream media outlets. It is a human and multi layered fabric. I met the actor, Daniel Cooksley, who played my part on stage. He said he had never performed a part with the subject sitting in the audience.

Fringe Show Times:
May 17, 2017 at 6PM
May 20, 2017 at 7PM
May 22, 2017 at 7PM
May 26, 2017 at 8:15PM
May 27, 2017 at 12:15PM
May 28, 2017 at 11:15AM

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