It’s been almost a year since a lone gunman stormed into Pulse nightclub in Orlando and opened fire, killing 49 people and injuring 53 others.
Ahead of the anniversary of the shooting, a collaboration between Zeiders American Dream Theater and The Orange Ave. Project will bring After Orlando: Stories of Los 49 to the Governor’s School for the Arts’ Dalis Black Box Theater in Downtown Norfolk on June 9-10 at 7:30 p.m.
After Orlando: Stories of Los 49 is an “international theatre action” curated by Missing Bolts Productions and NoPassport Theatre Alliance & Press comprising over 70 short plays written by playwrights from around the world in response to the horrific shooting at Pulse Nightclub on June 12, 2016.
Each piece is focused on a reaction to the shooting; one that is considered the deadliest attack on the LGBTQ community, and the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter, in American history.
The local production of After Orlando will be a 90-minute work featuring approximately 16 of the short plays, each lasting roughly three to five minutes.
Connor Norton, the Virginia Stage Company’s recently appointed Company Manager, will co-direct alongside Kat Martin, Lindsay Eure, and Ricardo Melendez. These artists will each direct four pieces with a cast of 12-13 local actors, including Carlos Blackwell, Philip Martin, Mateo Rogers and Sarah Perez.
“These people were all touched by the event in different ways,” Norton said. “After Orlando will show audience members the same thing it showed me; you can grieve in any number of ways and it doesn’t make you any less of a person.”
Five dollars of each $27.50 ticket will benefit Access AIDS Care and The LGBT Center of Hampton Roads, while the rest will be donated to The Orange Ave Project, Norton’s progressive “ethnographic research art piece.”
In collaboration with The Zeiders American Dream Theater, Equality Florida, and StoryCorps, The Orange Ave. Project “seeks to celebrate the lives of those that were lost by remembering them by the days each of them came into, lived, and brightened this world instead of by the day they were all taken from it.”
Through a series of interviews, the grassroots project plans to collect the stories of survivors, club-goers, first-responders and medical personnel, and the friends and family members of the victims of the Pulse nightclub shootings.
“This piece is not about what happened on June 12 at the Pulse nightclub,” Norton explained. “What we’re focusing on is the lives that were lost; what their aspirations were, what their dreams were, what they brought to society.”
Norton, the artistic director, hopes to change the narrative by instead “focusing on the fact that these are 49 people who are no longer going to contribute something to the world,” rather than just the terrible act of hate and violence.
“Each of them, in one way or another, were part of a business, or an organization, or were passionate about something that was going to bring something new, something of change to this world,” he said.
He and and his outfit of collaborators, including David Hall, Haley Sullivan, and Jessica Kazamel, will travel to Orlando for two weeks June 11-24 to conduct the interviews. The interviews will then be transcribed for workshop material and eventually worked into a script for the local production of The Orange Ave. Project in May 2018 before a final version is presented in Orlando for the two-year anniversary of the shooting.
“The Orange Ave. Project… has the effect of allowing artists like myself to find catharsis as we work on this project,” said Norton, “but also allowing those who have a very unique and intentional voice who experienced this firsthand to be able to share and be heard without us selfishly claiming the narrative.”
For more on this event, click here.