(WEST ORANGE, NJ) -- Luna Stage in association with Ping Chong and Company will premiere 2.2 Square Miles of Soul: Voices of Orange, a documentary film centering the voices and experiences of people from Orange, New Jersey, streaming May 13-May 23. This new work is the latest in Ping Chong and Company’s Undesirable Elements series of community-specific, interview-based theater pieces, examining issues of place, culture, and identity in the lives of individuals who share a community.
2.2 Square Miles of Soul: Voices of Orange shares oral histories of six former and current residents reflecting on the community they all still think of as home. Pay-what-you-wish and free tickets are available at lunastage.org.
The film is the culmination of a yearlong collaboration between Luna Stage and Ping Chong and Company, led by Christina Bixland and Matthew Martinez. It features Turron Kofi Alleyne (Creative Consultant), Tony Benevento, Theresa Borenstein, Robert Currie, Rebecca Doggett, and James A. Manning, as well as the poetry of local resident Judy Isaac.
“Getting to know these 6 individuals from Orange has been a joy, and even more so witnessing the evolution of their relationships to each other and to some of the moments in history that impacted their lives personally and collectively,” says Bixland.
“Assumptions have been challenged, and understanding has deepened across folks who lived in different parts of town, and grew up in different times! Our hope is for that kind of impact to have a broader ripple effect - between these storytellers and the audience, and between the audience and the surrounding communities they bring their experience back to,” she adds.
The project began with virtual Community Story Circles in the summer of 2020, launching the two companies’ collaborative process while providing an opportunity for connection during the COVID-19 pandemic. Later that year, artists interviewed Orange residents past and present about their life experiences, and began crafting a script composed entirely of their stories. Through a rehearsal and filming process, the storytellers themselves have worked to share their own stories with Orange and the surrounding communities.
The resulting film, while deeply personal, also bears witness to some of the social, political, and economic forces that shaped the City of Orange community over the course of the last century, including historic disinvestment, demographic change, and the fight for representative government. The film 2.2 Square Miles of Soul investigates the intersection of personal and political histories, and celebrates the resistance and resilience of the people of Orange.
Tickets for 2.2 Square Miles of Soul are available on a pay-what-you-wish basis and can be viewed on Luna’s website at lunastage.org.
Ping Chong and Company creates theater and art rooted in beauty, precision, and social justice. Founded in New York City in 1975 by Ping Chong—a theatrical innovator and National Medal of Arts recipient—PCC has created over 100 original works for the stage. These range from intimate oral histories that amplify underrepresented voices, to grand scale multidisciplinary productions with puppets, performers, music and projections.
PCC’s work is centered on innovation, collaboration, and community engagement, and increasingly engages multigenerational and interdisciplinary artists to respond to, and build on, Ping Chong’s visionary body of work.
Luna Stage develops and produces vibrant plays about local and global experiences. Firmly rooted in New Jersey's Valley Arts District — a crossroads of cultures — Luna brings our communities together for artistic events that spark conversations and create understanding and change.
The recipient of JerseyArts People’s Choice Award for Favorite Small Theatre in NJ for the past two years (2018 & 2019), Luna celebrates 10 years in its West Orange location this year. In addition to professional theatre productions on its MainStage and Luna 2, Luna offers classes for children and adults, opportunities for early-career and established theatre artists to develop new work, and has pivoted during the pandemic to offer a wide variety of free virtual programming.