ORLANDO – The Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival kicks off at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 16 at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center, and runs through May 29. This year the nearly three-week long festival will feature the largest line-up of shows in its history.
One of the shows will shift away from the kinds of zany comedies that often typify Fringe, and take a look back at an event that happening nearly a year ago, and that shocked people around the globe: the massacre at the Pulse nightclub near downtown Orlando.
O-TOWN Voices is bringing the world premiere of “O-Town: Voices From Orlando” to Fringe, with a Special performance on the eve of the One Year Anniversary of the June 12, 2016 attack on Pulse Nightclub. David Lee, the writer and director of Ant Farm Productions and the recipient of the 2016 Orlando International Fringe Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award, created this original theatrical event that shares stories and experiences from the days, weeks and months the Pulse massacre. The show was put together based on interviews, blog postings and stories from The Orlando Sentinel’s coverage of the massacre, recreating them on stage with six local actors.
Producer Margaret Nolan said this project started to come together right after the Pulse attack, when she reached out to David to create a monologue about the massacre.
“I commissioned him to write the monologue ‘O-Town’ last year after the tragedy as part of an international theatre action called AFTER ORLANDO,” she said. “That was a collection of 78 plays from playwrights from around the world. I produced an evening here of curated pieces in Orlando in the Mandell at Orlando Shakes in October.”
Freeline Media asked David to tell us how this show was created.
Freeline Media: The Pulse massacre was such a devastating and horrific moment for the city, and the pain from it lingers today. What were the challenges of creating a theatrical piece based on this moment.
David Lee: It was challenging emotionally to transcribe the interviews from recording to page, but ultimately quite cathartic.
FM: On the flip side, the Pulse massacre brought the entire region together in some remarkable ways. Does your show aim to capture a similar spirit?
David: Yes, the show examines how survivors have coped and how they handle and approach life now, and it also celebrates the resilience of the city and how the community has responded and come together.
FM: How long has this show been in the development stage?
David: Since July of last year.
FM: Viewed nearly a year later, does this show turn an eye toward the community’s future as well, including the gay and Latino communities in Central Florida?
David: It does attempt to ignite action for the future from the entire community and how we can continue to celebrate the power of Love triumphing over hate.
FM: Do you plan to take this show beyond Orlando Fringe, and do you see it evolving as new incidents related to the Pulse massacre change circumstances?
David: It was recently presented in a truncated version as a reading at The William Inge Center for the Performing Arts, which helped me immensely in terms of seeing it and hearing presented it in front of an audience. There are currently 18 monologues and yes, I plan to add to the collection as events unfold.
The current entire collection will be performed together for the first time at The John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center on June 11 at 7 p.m., the eve of the one year mark of the attack at Pulse. This will be presented by 18 actors in a two-act event and the proceeds will benefit The onePulse Foundation.
Tickets for the June 11 performance are available at Eventbrite. The shorter, hour-long Fringe version of “O-Town: Voices from Orlando” is made up of 12 monologues and is being presented by six actors.
The original monologue collection will be performed during a special Preview performance the press tonight at 9:15 p.m. in the Brown Venue . Then the show will be performed on the following dates:
* Wednesday May 17 at 6 p.m.
* Saturday May 20 at 7 p.m.
* Monday May 22 at 7 p.m.
* Friday May 26 at 8:15 p.m.
* Saturday May 27 at 12:30 p.m.
* Sunday May 28 at 11:15 a.m.
For tickets visit Orlando Fringe.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com..