In the time of mourning last week's mass shooting in Las Vegas, the play "26 Pebbles" touches upon a similar situation. Playwright and UCF alumnus Eric Ulloa believed it was time for him to get off his couch and tell the story that needs to be told -- how Americans came together after the Sandy Hook shooting.
In the wake of the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Ulloa, 35, said there has been nothing but love and affection around the country. He decided it was best to bring the show to his alma mater because of how similar it struck into Orlando’s heart.
“I keep hoping that this would be an irrelevant play and something we’ll watch and have a hateful nostalgia like ‘Hey remember when our country had this hateful nostalgia and then we fixed it?'” Ulloa said.
Ulloa had the opportunity to bring the show to the UCF theater department for a four-day free event at the Orlando Repertory Theatre from Oct. 5-8. Because Orlando has gone through a similar tragedy not long ago, Ulloa decided to make this show free and collect any donations at the end of the show to give to an organization that helps the Pulse survivors.
"26 Pebbles" follows what happened after the shooting and what the community dealt with once the media left, from the townspeople to town hall. Ulloa said much like pebbles being thrown in a pond, the vibrations and rippling effects after the tragedy caused the community to be shaken up. He conducted interviews from people of the community and told them through this production.
Ulloa decided not to interview any of the victims’ families and instead interviewed the outer community, which included a woman named Carol who oversaw the community in the town hall. Ulloa said he had the chance to sit down with her and her family, which led him to being introduced to people all around the community.
Courtney Yakabuski, a 22-year-old acting major, took to the stage as three roles: Sally, Jeriann and Yolie, where she got to interact with the audience. She said she felt that Sandy Hook greatly hit home for her.
“Pulse is so recent and still so fresh for some people ... with what just happened this week my first instinct was what can we do? How can we help them?” Yakabuski said.
Yakabuski also shared a sense of proximity to the Las Vegas tragedy, as she lived near there as a child.
“Your first reaction is, ‘Is everyone I know OK?’ and once you find out that everyone was OK then you try to find your safety after something like this happens,” Yakabuski said.
Once the scripts were distributed, Yakabuski did her research and mentally prepared herself on how to enter into the mindset of three very different people.
“This show is about the shooting but also not,” Yakabuski said, “This show is about the beginning of the town, what happened and how we rebuild. I think more shows like that should be coming out because when events like this happen we don’t know what to do.”
Ulloa utilized his artists' talents to create this show, not just for spreading the message about another tragedy but to get others off their seats.
“I wanted to inspire a younger generation to do something and help ... I saw the story and it was horrifying and I couldn’t shake it and decided I couldn’t keep posting things on Facebook like ‘I’m so mad,’" he said. "I needed to actually do something. What I did is nothing extraordinary; we all can do this.”