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Art as a tool for healing

One June 12, 2016 I was working at Barrington Coffee on Congress street doing the typical multi-tasking hustle that one must do at a coffee shop. When I had a chance to sit down in the back room, I grabbed my phone and clicked on the face book app. My heart dropped to my stomach as my news feed was flooded with articles and statuses about a mass shooting in Orlando Florida at a gay night club. The sobbing began when I started reading the names of those 50 people killed…most were Spanish names. As I read article after article clawing desperately to understand how and what happened exactly, I could not escape how close to home this tragedy hit. That could have been me. The next day I found out that two of my co-workers at  The Theater Offensive, Boston’s foremost LGBTQA theater company where I was interning for the summer, had friends that lost their lives in the shooting. From that moment forward, the company worked to collaborate with writers to create a piece in reaction to the shootings. The result of this collaboration culminated in a staged reading of the new one-act play, “The Improvement of Life” and subsequent smaller scenes titled “After Orlando” which happened this passed weekend. I had the opportunity to act in these staged readings as the character, Mabelia, a young Puerto Rican girl who gets killed during the shooting.

This to me is an excellent example of art being created in a time that it is needed the most. How do you digest the horrors of the world?

Art can help this digestion process and I believe that this piece did just that, not only for the audiences experiencing the piece, but for the people performing, and involved in the process. Honestly for me, after experiencing several close deaths over the passed two years, I am still trying to wrap my head around death, loss, let alone the massacre.  The one thing I can say right now is that, participating in this project helped me see how deeply powerful art can be as a tool for healing. Some art created in times of tragedy is made to get your mind off the horror, and some is created so that we may begin to move through the aftermath of it. This second option is one I am very much interested in creating, especially after meeting audiences and being overwhelmed with people’s sincere and deep expressions of gratitude. Though I cannot recreate the experience we gave to audiences this weekend, I can offer the names of those who were murdered that night. They will forever live in my heart and will never be forgotten.

Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old
Christopher Andrew “Drew” Leinonen, 32 years old
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old
Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old
Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old
Kimberly Morris, 37 years old
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old
Amanda Alvear, 25 years old
Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old
Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old
Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old
Cory James Connell, 21 years old
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old
Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old
Yilmary Rodriguez Sulivan, 24 years old
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old
Frank Hernandez, 27 years old
Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old
Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz 24 years old



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