AFTER ORLANDO - A rumination from the artists involved

A play can be a diary entry.
A play can be an opportunity to reflect.
A play can be a space to remember.
A play can be a platform.
A play can give a voice.

Following the Pulse nightclub massacre on June 12, 2016, which was the deadliest mass shooting in our country’s history, NoPassport Theatre Alliance and Missing Bolts Productions invited playwrights to write short plays in response to the tragedy. Forward Flux Productions was 1 of over 50 theater companies and intuitions across the country to participate by presenting an evening of performances in remembrance. The evening in Seattle was hosted by Cornish College of the Arts.

What follows are images and quotes from the artists and playwrights involved in the Seattle production of AFTER ORLANDO.

Wesley Frugé - Producing Artistic Director, Forward Flux Productions

“When preparing what to say to introduce AFTER ORLANDO, I began thinking about how much time hasn't passed since the shooting. June 12th. Just 6 months ago. We live in such a fast-paced world now, and I've been thinking a lot about our role inside that world as artists. I think letting some time pass was good as it allowed for some perspective and soul searching, and wasn't just our knee-jerk, social media friendly reaction. More and more (especially after the election) we are seeing that so many of us operate inside a bubble. How can we pop that bubble to share perspectives from across our country and indeed the world? AFTER ORLANDO was incredible in that regard, as we were able to see how the event changed and effected many different communities.”

Matt Aguayo - Performer / Burlesque

“My initial reaction to the event was, as a queer artist of color in the Northwest, was very personal and very painful. And then the resulting inaction from that was maddening and it was almost a call of arms to me to create something.”

Hisam Goueli - Burlesque / Performance

“I woke up and saw it through distressed posts on my Facebook feed.  My first thought after ‘what a terrible event’ and ‘what event will it take to tighten gun laws’ was ‘please do not let the shooter be Arab.’  I think that most Muslims and Arabs have this thought pretty frequently when a shooting occurs.  It reinforces negative stereotypes about Islam and Arabs.  I then started to research if anything was known about the killer.  My heart sank when I realized he was both Muslim and Arab.  Then I was sad.”

Alaji Marie - Actor, At the Store with My Daughter

“I remember being very shocked, I don't remember where I was but I remember thinking ‘wow, that could've been any of my friends’ and ‘how could someone ... how could someone..’ I did not respond AT ALL. I didn't post... I barely read after I found out. I shut myself out because I didn't want to cope with something so tragic. It was so easy to... ‘glaze over’... I believe I put up a wall to the reality of that actually happening. It was overwhelming.”

At the Store with My Daughter was written by Rohina Malik and directed by Wesley Frugé.

Roy Antonio Arauz - Playwright, Disco Nap

“My first thoughts were of helplessness because one of our safe places had been violated, to wondering who could have done this and why. I didn't really sit down and truly deal with all the emotions and situation until I was asked to write the piece for the event. It was then that it hit me.

The conversation I had right after the event was how this could be me. Us. How many times did we get ready to go out clubbing, excited for the night and looking forward to being ourselves. Knowing we were going to the one place where we could be the fullest expression of who we are without fear. The ritual of planning, taking a nap to stay up late. Never thinking that this could be the last time we made those plans.”

Disco Nap was performed by Hisam Goueli and José Amador (pictured above) and directed by Wesley Frugé.

Jeremy O. Harris - Playwright, I Tried

“I remember being so very angry that the conversation lacked nuanced. I remember feeling really complicated about what it meant that almost all these people who died were men of color on a LatinxDrag night led by two trans women and yet the only people I saw publicly on their timelines mourning and fearing their safety were my white cis male friends from LA who would never have even been seen at night like that.”

I Tried was performed by Aly Bedford, Gary Zinter and Corey Spruill (Gary and Corey pictured above). It was directed by José Amador.

Matt Aguayo - Actor, Dance Again

“That could have been me. I could have lived there. I could have been in that space.”

Dance Again is written by Emilio Rodriguez. It was performed by Rafael Molina, Matt Aguayo and Matt Sherril (pictured above). It was directed by Emily Harvey.

Hisam Goueli - Performer / Burlesque

“As time when on ... I think that I was most surprised that the largest mass shooting in US history went relatively unnoticed.  It was in the papers and then it wasn't.  I still think about how we have moved past this event so quickly.  How time passes and lives of people are forgotten.  It made me think a lot more about Pride and how we have become complacent about what it means.  How Pride has changed from solidarity to circuit party.”

Jeremy O. Harris - Playwright, I Tried / Performer Chimaera pictured above

“I wrote this play two days after and performed it. I feel like this experience shifted the way I talked about theatre and how I want to interact with my voice as a theatre artist. The fact that I wrote this deeply personal, imperfect, but impacting piece the day after the tragedy that has had this much reach is what I feel theatre is most made for...the creation of community through language and art that has immediacy and virility.  It speaks to what I felt was an erasure of a racialized conversation about this tragedy. It also looked at the man who committed this tragedy as a possibly gaslit terrorist who was more probably just a deeply repressed and angry homosexual who lashed out at the only space where he felt welcome.”

Alaji Marie - Actor / Above: Alaji (3rd from left) watches Matt Sherril perform (foreground)

“This collection of performances triggered my humanity, on my walk home I was just talking to God, praying for the victims and their families peace, praying for the future safety of the precious lives we have, a few blocks from my apartment I stopped. I was silent, I tore into tears, loud sobs and my friend who was with me just grabbed me, and I sobbed and I sobbed... people passed... and I sobbed .... until I felt ready to stop. Until I could breath. AFTER ORLANDO helped me to FEEL... so many of these tragedies happen and we gloss over it, I gloss over it, not because we don't care, but because with so much pain we've forgotten how to care, how to feel. So thank you. Thank you for helping me to honor, to speak, to pray, to cry, and to feel. I'll never ever forget that night. I want more nights like that.”

Wesley Frugé - Actor, The Human Traces

“The shooting hung like a cloud over our pride celebrations in Seattle. But we danced on. We dance on. We will not be silenced.

The Human Traces is written by Anders Lustgarten. It was directed by Andy Buffelen.

Thank you for remembering with us at AFTER ORLANDO.

If you would like to support the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting, consider making a tax-deductible donation to Pulse of Orlando.

All photos by Emily Harvey.
AFTER ORLANDO was produced by Andy Buffelen and Kiki Abba for Forward Flux Productions.