Arts & Culture

TAPS stages response to Orlando shooting

Play compilation ‘After Orlando’ stimulates conversation following Pulse Nightclub massacre

Staff Writer
Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Providence Gay Men’s Chorus performed a song written in the wake of the Pulse Nightclub shooting for the first time ever Tuesday.

The Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies collaborated with the Wilbury Theater Group Tuesday night to perform “After Orlando,” a staged reading of new plays created in response to the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. The Pulse massacre took place June 12 and resulted in the deaths of 49 people, with 53 others wounded.

“After Orlando” is a coordinated international theater action initiated by Missing Bolt Productions and NoPassport Theater in New York and includes a collection of over 50 participating play readings which have been staged in theaters across the nation. The reading Tuesday was also in association with Brown/Trinity Consortium and Rites and Reasons Theater and featured musical performances and a never-before performed song from the Providence Gay Men’s Chorus. Youth Pride Rhode Island received the donations from Tuesday night’s event.

“We selected nine of the plays from the collection,” said Assistant Professor of TAPS Sarah D’Angelo, adding that it was difficult to choose which would be performed because the “writing in all of the pieces (was) amazing.”

D’Angelo said there were many reasons she felt compelled to put on “After Orlando.” “It bothered me that this event sort of came and went in the media,” she said. “Clearly the families of victims are still trying to heal from this.” D’Angelo said she does not want the Orlando massacre to fade. Due to the prevalence of violence against diverse communities, D’Angelo said “we need to keep having these conversations about it.”

D’Angelo and the Wilbury Theater Group were separately approached by Caridad Svich of Missing Bolt about performing the staged reading. When the Wilbury Theater Group’s Founding Artistic Director Josh Short heard that TAPS was also exploring the idea of putting on an “After Orlando” performance, he reached out to D’Angelo.

Short said it was important for the cast and the entire artistic team to be a “diverse group of artists.”

“It was important for the LGBT community to be represented in the work itself,” he added.

“These works are all unique,” Short said. “They don’t directly address the shooting itself, but it’s more of a greater problem of diversity and acceptance, and I think that conversation is something that’s important.”

“One of the things that is so powerful about theater is the healing power of it and the application beyond just entertainment,” D’Angelo said. “The performance in response to (the shooting) offers an opportunity for the community to have dialogue and to begin the healing process from it.”

Kim Kuda, the director of the Providence Gay Men’s Chorus, also believes in the healing powers of art. After the shooting, Kuda did the only thing she could think of: She turned to her piano. The never-before-performed song she wrote was the closing performance Tuesday night and was “directly in response to what happened that day” in Orlando.

The Providence Gay Men’s Chorus’ mission statement is to “harmonize diversity through song,” Kuda said, adding that because the chorus is a nonprofit organization, “we are very limited to what we can say, … but there are certain things where our voice needs to be heard.”

The shooting “directly affects the members of my chorus,” Kuda said. The song is “our belated way of paying our respects. … We were together right after the shooting, and we had a moment of silence, but this is very special to us.”

“There are places the members of the chorus are still not welcome to sing. There is still hate in this world that is so unnecessary,” Kuda said, adding that the chorus hopes to do “anything we can do to open one more person’s eyes.”

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