Watermark on the Fringe: O-Town: Voices from Orlando

By : Anna M. Johnson
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Audience members that saw O-Town: Voices from Orlando during Sunday night’s press preview were handed small cards with rainbow ribbons attached as they walked through the doors of the brown venue.

“Please keep love in your heart and hope will follow,” the cards read, quoting Ben Johansen, the ribbon maker whose story is one of many featured in the show.

This quote embodies O-Town.

The show is the creation of last year’s Fringe Lifetime Achievement Award recipient David Lee. He’s staged stories that arose in the aftermath of the Pulse Nightclub shooting on June 12, 2016 in front of a backdrop of drawings of all 49 people who lost their lives that morning.

Six actors deliver 12 monologues, including both original works and stories adapted from interviews or speeches from real people. Lee’s minimalist staging allows the content of the pieces to lead the show. All of the actors are capable and know when to let the power of their words speak for itself.

The hour-long show encompasses many different stories, ranging from a first responder’s account of the shooting to a high school student who wore angel wings to block protesters from a victim’s funeral. A particularly touching story was that of Tom Zaizar, who led the effort to build a 49-foot lei in remembrance of those who died, delivered with a quiet strength by actor Henry Gibson.

It is part of your identity as an Orlandoan to try to see this production. If you do miss it, however, there will be an extended production at the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre on June 11.

O-Town is described perfectly by a quote from its piece about what Pulse vigils looked like around the United States: “somber but defiant.”

Running through May 28 at the Brown Venue. For more information, go to orlandofringe.org

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