June 12 marked the one-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, the deadliest terror attack on American soil since September 11, 2001. Forty-nine people died in the shooting and 53 people were injured in the attack.
This week, in St. Louis, two local theater companies are using theater to observe that anniversary in a free event at the Contemporary Art Museum on Friday night. It is called “After Orlando,” and features readings of 14 short plays that pay tribute to the anniversary using various themes.
Joan Lipkin, the artistic director of That Uppity Theatre Company, and Christina Rios, the artistic director of R-S Theatrics, joined St. Louis on the Air on Thursday to discuss the anniversary and the many issues raised by it.
Caridad Svitch, Blair Baker and Zach Klein commissioned 75 writers from across the world to respond to the Pulse massacre shortly after it occurred. The short plays that resulted were donated by the writers and were put on all over the world in podcasts, community centers and theaters large and small.
Lipkin, who has a play in the mix, put the collection on as part of the St. Louis Fringe in November but wanted to bring them back to St. Louis around the anniversary.
“I thought it was important that we revisit this, that we don’t lose this in the 24-hour news cycle,” Lipkin said.
Although all 75 plays will not be performed, for the sake of length, but 14 of which will be read and directed at the Contemporary Art Museum at no cost on Friday night.
“There’s something so powerful about a reading, all that you have is your senses and imagination,” Rios said. “… You are forced to really listen and invest in the material. That’s how you change lives. That’s how you change the world.”
The readings feature actors from a wide variety of generations and backgrounds. The plays themselves range from satirical to dramatic and offer multiple perspectives.
“The audience will hear a story of a mother’s loss, the stress of a cleanup crew that have to take care of over 50 bodies, a Chick-Fil-A employee who opens the store against company policy, a beautiful piece about what it means to be a young gay man who is dancing in a gay bar for the first time,” Lipkin said. “These pieces encourage empathy and keep the memories alive of the 49 people who died.”
The plays have been performed or read at over 75 different venues in the United States and across the world.
“The value of theater in a culture of forgetting is that theater helps us distill and remember and hear many stories,” Lipkin said.
What: That Uppity Theatre Company and RS-Theatrics Present "After Orlando"
When: Friday, June 16 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, 3750 Washington Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63108
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