“Last year, it was about global warming,” says ASU associate professor Micha Espinosa. “This year, it’s about gun safety and the LGBTQ community.”
She’s referring to After Orlando, the latest in a series of annual theater events created by Obie award-winning playwright Caridad Svich and set to take the stage locally on Sunday, January 29. The event, billed as “an international theater action,” first appeared in 2016 with a group of short plays about the science of climate change. This year’s installment is inspired by the June 2016 massacre at Pulse Nightclub, the Orlando, Florida, gay disco where 49 people were murdered by a lone gunman.
The new event features three-minute plays by more than 70 playwrights from around the world, and will be overseen by Espinosa and Robert Harper, associate artistic director at Phoenix Theatre. Several local companies are providing top talent to read the plays, including Maren Mascarelli, Angelica Howland, Johanna Carlisle, Rusty Ferracane, Javier Stefano De Vita, and Lillie Richardson The actors will read plays by, among others, Deborah Laufer (“Everybody Gets a Stick”), Monica Palacios (“Say Their Names”), Neil LaBute (“Fun Fact”), and ASU’s Jeff McMahon (“Obscene”).
Producers in each market choose as few or as many plays from the collection of nearly six dozen submitted by Svich. Espinosa and Harper gave special attention to work from local writers and those that, Espinosa says, “intrigued and moved us the most.” Themes include gun violence, discrimination, grief, love, gay and lesbian issues, “and the emotion and reaction to the tragedy from a micro and macro perspective,” according to Espinosa.
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One play is about a couple who meet and fall in love in the nightclub on the fateful night of the shooting; another concerns a mother who discovers her son is gay, was murdered that night, and must go claim his remains.
The project will include the participation of more than 30 local artists and a keynote speech from State Representative-Elect Daniel Hernandez, who gained national recognition for saving the life of U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in 2011 during an infamous shooting at a Tucson constituent meeting. Hernandez is a member of the gay community, a Latino, and a victim of gun violence.
“These plays offer a kaleidoscope of emotions,” says Espinosa, who hopes the project will have an impact on state gun policy. “It’s a wonderful merger of the arts community and local politics,” she says. “I hope it gives our audience something to think about.”
After Orlando is scheduled for Sunday, January 29, at 6 p.m. in the Hormel Theatre at Phoenix Theatre, 100 East McDowell Road. Call 602-254-2151 or visit www.phxtheatre.org.