Last June, Connor Norton travelled to Orlando on the anniversary of 2016’s Pulse nightclub shooting, which left 49 people dead, and many others injured.
For Connor, company manager at Virginia Stage Company, it was a pilgrimage dedicated to the next step in completing a work of passion: The Orange Avenue Project. Named for the Orlando street where Pulse is located, the Project’s purpose is to collect the stories, memories, perspectives, and words of those directly and indirectly affected by the tragedy.
“This is unique in that we’re not going to remember the tragedy, but the people: their lives and the light they brought to others,” said Conner. “And most importantly, how the world should never take the loss of these lights for granted.”
Connor and his small army of artist-researchers spent weeks in Orlando from June through October of last year, conducting intensive interviews with 80 members of the Orlando community who were impacted by the tragic Pulse nightclub shooting which occurred on June 12, 2016.
Since then, they have spent months transcribing the interviews and weaving them into an evolving and experimental ethnographic research theatre piece.
This weekend, the public will have an opportunity to experience an hour-long staged reading of the piece at Zeiders American Dream Theater in what essentially amounts to a workshop.
Audience members are invited to stay after each performance and participate in a feedback session.
“At this point, we really want the community to hear what we have done so far, then share with us their reactions,” Connor said. “That will help us as we fine tune and prepare to assemble the full stage production for debut in October 2019.”
As is always the case with a project of passion, funding is key to its success.
After a successful first round of fundraising that covered the costs of travelling to Orlando, Connor is now looking ahead to round two, which will help them bring the full production to the stage next year.“We’re approaching funding on a strictly grassroots participation level,” he said. “We’re biting off one piece at a time.”
Under the guidance and support of the Zeiders American Dream Theater’s Hatchery Project, the Project is also supported by collaborative relationships with Equality Florida and StoryCorps. The Project also runs a GoFundMe page.
“The project will take more time, resources, and effort than anything I’ve done before,” said Connor. “But the end result is something that will live far beyond the pain of the shooting, and my team and I are committed to making that happen.”
WANT TO GO?
The Orange Ave Project
Zeiders American Dream Theater
May 25-27, 2018
OutWire757 sponsors OutNight on Friday, May 25, with discounted tickets and a complimentary glass of wine.Tickets can only be purchased online prior to the performance at EventBrite.