It’s been just over six months since a gunman opened fire in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people. In the months since, theaters around the country have been hosting performances to reflect on the tragic event.
Friday night, that theater production comes to Western Massachusetts.
Following the deadly shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub last June, Blair Baker, an artistic director at a small theater company in New York, reached out to her colleagues at Missing Bolts Productions and NoPassport Theatre Alliance with a question.
“What can we do to give artists a space to heal? And ‘After Orlando’ was born out of that,” Baker said.
“After Orlando” is the title Baker and her collaborators gave to their project.
They sent out a call to playwrights asking for 3-minute plays in response to the Orlando massacre. They ended up collecting more than 70 short works that deal with grief, anger, love, and loss from as many different perspectives as they could find.
“So there’s going to be at least one that you deeply empathize with, if not multiple ones,” Baker said.
From there, theaters across the country volunteered to join in, each choosing a different selection of plays from the collection.
The first staging of “After Orlando” took place in the Bronx in September. Since then, there have been more than 40 staged readings at community theaters and universities from Los Angeles to London.
“This kind of movement where you really are creating an activist movement of many people across boundaries is so important,” said Linda McInerney artistic director of Eggtooth Productions in Greenfield.
Over the last few weeks, McInerney and director Josh Platt read through all of the short plays in the collection and selected 10 to produce in Greenfield.
Platt said some are more traditional plays with characters and dialogue while others are more abstract.
“There’s one play that has a special place in my heart and the text is simply as follows: ‘One: Performer fires water pistol at the audience. Two: Audience fires water pistol at perform,’” Platt said.
The Pulse shooting was especially devastating for the LGBT community, and Platt said, in the Greenfield reading, he wanted to choose works that would bring their stories to life.
“There are a lot of queer people in this community, in the artistic community and performing arts community who carry this same grief, who would like to be making more work where they can play queer characters and tell stories about queer people, but the opportunities aren’t there,” Platt said.
Nine local performers had just two rehearsals before the free, staged reading tonight at Jack’s Studio in Greenfield.
The “After Orlando” collection of plays have been made available to theater companies royalty-free through the end of January.