By Richard Schultz, February 2017 Web Exclusive.
Phoenix Theatre and Arizona State University have joined forces to bring an international stage project to Phoenix in response to tragedy at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando last year.
After Orlando, a free event that will take place at 6:00 p.m. Jan. 29 in Phoenix Theatre's Hormel Theatre, will include 12 to 14 three-minute plays presented in a staged reading by local theatre artists. This series of short plays by a diverse range of playwrights has been presented more than 70 times nationally and internationally written in response to the Orlando tragedy.
Phoenix Theatre's associate artistic director Robbie Harper learned of the project during rehearsals for In the Heights last fall.
“Micha Espinosa, from ASU, approached me about the project," Harper said. "I like doing things that have impact and create community so we decided with the support of our individual organizations to do it.”
According to Espinosa, ASU's associate professor of voice and acting at the Herberger Institute, these plays explore a variety of themes, such as LGBT issues, guns and immigration.
"Their messages truly resonated with me about hate crimes," Espinosa said. "We are taking a look at what happens to innocent people. These types of scenes ripple throughout the nation. Gun violence has been horrific. As a nation, we have not a single nor a double, but now triple-digit mass shootings per year.”
For Espinosa, it’s the talkback after the staged readings that offers a unique opportunity to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the audience about the staged works and how they reflect events in the news.
“The message of the projects is that we care, we matter and we stand together,” Espinosa said.
This engagement, Harper explained, is a way of honoring the men and women who lost their lives during the tragedy.
"We are creating something good out of something so horrifying," he said. "This is not about producing theatre. We are letting the words speak for themselves. Our goal is to just breathe life into the words. This event celebrates our diversity while honoring the lives of the people we have lost along the way. Things like this happen because of fear. We must overcome it by shining a light on it. I believe events like this help to do that.”
The project involves 30 local artists who reflect a cross section of the Valley’s leading talent ranging from ASU students to well-known local performers, including Rusty Ferracane, Lillie Richardson, Maren Mascarelli, Katie McFadzen, Debra K. Stevens, Enrique Guevara, Johanna Carlisle and Kirt Shineman.
Addition, Detroit-based movement maker and community engagement advocate Marcus White is creating a dance piece to close out the event.
Tucson State Representative-Elect Daniel Hernandez, who gained national recognition for saving the life of U.S. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords in 2011, will present a keynote speech.
After Orlando has been produced and performed in theaters and universities around the country, and includes internationally recognized playwrights such as Neil LaBute, Mia Chung, Israel Horovitz and Oliver Mayer and among many others. Two of the pieces are by playwrights with local ties: Obscene by ASU associate professor Jeff McMahon and Orlando by Tucson-based playwright Elaine Romero.
The plays to be presented as part of After Orlando include:
• After by Caridad Svich
• Everybody gets a Stick by Deborah Laufer
• At The Store with my Daughter by Rohina Malik
• These Wings Were Meant to Fly by Zac Kline
• Orlando by Elaine Romero
• Before by Elaine Avila
• Departure by Jordan Tannahill
• Pulled Over by Michael Dinwiddie
• Til the DJ Quits Playing by Brian Quijada
• The Gun Collector by Nathan Alan Davis
• Say Their Names by Monica Palacios
• You have to Be by Mark Gerrad
• Claim by Ken Urban
• Obscene by Jeff McMahon
6 p.m. Jan. 29
Phoenix Theatre's Hormel Theatre
100 E. McDowell Road, Phoenix
Tickets: Free; however, a reservation HERE is highly recommended.