WINTER PARK – In the two weeks since the horrific massacre at Pulse nightclub, Central Florida’s theater community has rallied behind the victims of the attack and their families, including hosting special performances that serve as fundraisers.
The Winter Park Playhouse hosted a special fundraiser for the Pulse victims, opening its doors last Thursday for what became a sold-out benefit event.
Through ticket sales, sales of drinks at their bar, and additional contributions made by the public, the musical theater at 711 Orange Ave. in Winter Park raised $7,262 that evening.
Heather Alexander, the executive director of the Playhouse, said the money would be contributed to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer’s new OneOrlando fund.
“We are so grateful to all of the 25 actors, the crew and staff, and the patrons who all donated their time, talent and financial resources to help benefit the victims and families of this tragedy,” Alexander said. “It just shows how much love there is in this wonderful community.”
Then on Saturday, the Footlight Theatre at the Parliament House, a gay resort in Orlando, brought together four celebrity LGBT comics to raise money for the Pulse victims, under the banner, “Let’s Face It, Orlando… We Need a Reason to Laugh.”
The show brought together comics Suzanne Westenhoeffer of HBO’s “A Bottom on Top,” Julie Goldman and Stephen Guarino of Logo’s “Big Gay Sketch Show” and Brad Loekle of “Fashion Police, World’s Dumbest” for this night of comedy, with 100 percent of the ticket proceeds going directly to the Pulse Employee Recovery Fund.
It was just community theaters. On Thursday, June 16, the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra reopened the Plaza Live theater, which OPO had purchased in August 2013. The Plaza was the scene of another horrific act: the shooting death of Christina Grimmie, the singer and songwriter from NBC’s “The Voice” on June 10, by a lone gunman who then killed himself.
Grimmie was killed two days before the Pulse shooting.
On their web page, the OPO noted that they were in the first phase of renovations at the Plaza Live when the two tragedies occurred.
“While our mission remains strong, the senseless attack that took place here last Friday and the horrific events on Sunday at Pulse Club have had a life-changing impact on us all,” OPO noted. “Our hearts and deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of Christina Grimmie as well as those of the 49 victims from Pulse. Unspeakable tragedies like these affect everyone, including those who, through no fault of their own, become involved.”
On June 16, OPO reopened Plaza Live for a performance by Yacht Rock Revue, and opened the night with a moment of silence for Grimmie and the Pulse victims.
Tonight at 7 p.m., OPO will kick off its annual Sounds of Summer series with “Heroes and Villains,” a concert featuring Stravinsky’s “L’Histoire du Soldat (The Soldier’s Tale).” The performance will be dedicated to Grimmie and the Pulse victims. It will be held at The Plaza Live, and City Commissioner Patty Sheehan will provide the opening remarks with a dedication to the victims of violence.
There was also a moment of silence for the Pulse victims on Friday at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, during the performance of the touring Broadway musical “Spring Awakening”. Cast member Luis Diaz asked the audience at the start of the show to join the cast in a moment of silence for the Pulse victims, and after the final curtain call, Diaz also introduced to the audience the show’s director, Jacques Broquet, who lives in Paris and talked about how the city had to cover from the terrorist attacks on Nov. 13 2015, which included the deaths of 89 people at the Bataclan theatre.
Broquet urged the public on both sides of the continent to unite against hate.
The Orlando Fringe, which organizes the annual Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival in May, also issued a statement urging solidarity with the Pulse victims.
“We at Orlando Fringe, along with the entire arts community, stand with the victims of the tragedy at Pulse, their families and friends,” Fringe noted.
The Orlando city government created the OneOrlando Fund in the days following the Pulse tragedy to provide direct funding support to the victims and their families. The city also created a OneOrlando board to oversee this fund, and it is being chaired by Alex Martins, president and CEO of the Orlando Magic. The board will be made up of community leaders from the Hispanic and LGBTQ communities most directly impacted by the shootings at the gay nightclub near downtown Orlando.
On the night of the attacks – which claimed 49 lives and left 53 others wounded – the club was hosting Latin night, and many of the victims were both gay and latino.
Checks may be made payable to OneOrlando Fund and sent to OneOrlando, P.O. Box 4990, Orlando, FL 32802-4990. The public can also text ORLANDO to 501501 to donate $10.
For information or to make a wire transfer, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com..