AURORA | For two days next week, Orlando, Florida will be a little closer to Aurora.
Benchmark Theatre Company, a brand-new production company founded by a pair of local actresses, is premiering “After Orlando,” an international theatrical event intended to honor the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting earlier this year.
Slated for the evenings of Nov. 14 and 15 at the Vintage Theatre in Aurora, ticket sales from the event will benefit the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit organization that advocates and lobbies on behalf of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
“The 49 LGBTQ and allied individuals who lost their lives in Orlando were brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, friends and neighbors, boyfriends and girlfriends, husbands and wives,” Stephen Peters, a spokesman for the HRC, said in an emailed statement. “They were human beings with hopes and dreams whose lives were cut short by a deadly act of hatred. We are committed to keeping their memories alive and honoring their legacies by ensuring our nation acts to end anti-LGBTQ hate and gun violence.”
The theater event is being held for different stints of time at theaters around the country through December. New York-based companies Missing Bolts Productions and NoPassport Theatre Alliance and Press organized the original event in September and solicited new works from more than 50 participating playwrights.
“As theater-makers, we have the ability to bring together many singular unique voices toward a common goal,” Missing Bolts Artistic Directors Zac Kline and Blair Baker said in a joint statement. “We feel it is necessary to give artists a place to respond to the tragedy in Orlando and the current state of the world. We have invited some of the most admired theatre artists worldwide to participate, to share our grief, our anger, our hope and our desire to combat the violence we are now living with on a daily basis.”
A dozen shows will be staged on both nights at The Vintage, although the exact selections will differ from day to day. The Denver Gay Men’s Chorus will also perform on both nights.
The works slated to be performed include “After” by Caridad Svich, “After Orlando” by Oliver Mayer, “Orlando Monologue” by Lindsey Ferrentino, “The Human Traces” by Anders Lustgarten, “Gone Silent” by Jennifer Maisel, “Checkmate” by Winter Miller, “The 49 (Los 49)” by Paul and Leesa Castaneda, “Baby Sister: A Monologue Play” by Jacqueline Goldfinger, “*Pistols (An action in 6 parts)” by Andy Field, “these wings are meant to fly” by Zac Kline, “Sauce” by Sung Rno, “Departure” by Jordan Tannahill, and “Today is a Good Day” by Katie Pearl.
Several companies from across the Front Range are helping to stage the productions, including Athena Project, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company, Buntport Theater, Curious Theatre Company, Funky Little Theatre Company, Local Theater Company, Phamaly Theatre Company, Su Teatro and Vintage Theatre Productions.
The event will serve as Benchmark’s official artistic debut, as the company was only founded in July and has yet to stage a production. The Benchmark team is slated to debut its first, full-length run in March with a production of Jennifer Haley’s “The Nether” at Buntport Theater in Denver.
Local actress and director Haley Johnson co-founded Benchmark along with Rachel Bouchard, another regular of the Denver metro area theater scene.
Johnson said the pair wanted to create a venture that would bolster civic and business partnerships within the local theater community.
“We wanted to create a company that focused a lot on community collaboration,” Johnson said. “While there’s some really great art happening in town, we just thought that there was a little bit of a missing niche for community collaboration, business partnerships and community partnerships across the board.”
A silent auction and reception will precede the performances at The Vintage.