Podcast guest Eric Ulloa (On Your Feet!) shares his moving story of experiencing hope in the face of tragedy on Pride Sunday 2016.
"One year ago today, we were reminded that Pride still meant fighting for your life."
"A week and a half prior, a gunman had entered one of our safe spaces and took 49 of us in mid-dance. One year prior to that, we were celebrating the right to marry nationally, and now bodies lay on a night club floor in a reminder that, despite our advances, hate still runs deep in some. We grieved, we mourned, we shouted “Say their names!” outside of Stonewall as candles lit the night sky that we hoped they were watching from."
"A dear friend called me a few days later and asked if there was a way to have On Your Feet! sing the National Anthem at the Pulse memorial outside the 9/11 museum. This was an easy “yes” and soon we organized as many cast members as we could to pay homage to the lives lost. So, on a warm June morning, we sang our country’s anthem in tribute to people who could have been us."
"And it was tough. And it was painful. And it was sad."
"Yet we held each other up as we cried publicly on national TV, and in the end, the day allowed some of the burden of this tragedy to release."
"A week followed, and as we approached Pride, I remember it all felt so strange. None of the usual feelings that I held toward this week were coming to mind. I had so much anger and sadness within me, and every time I thought of these pour souls, I would fall apart. I kept having vivid dreams of being inside Pulse as a 22-year-old (I went to college in Orlando), and then it would steer itself into a nightmare as I envisioned what it must have been like that night. I would wake up to the thought of those mothers screaming into the newscaster’s microphone, begging for information on their son, when we all knew the news that awaited her."
"Pride Sunday saw us readying ourselves for the matinee, and our dressing room DJ, David Baida, had appropriately chosen RuPaul’s album as our pre-show soundscape. And of course, our room became the Drag Race runway, and each had their turn to strut before the “Places” call."
"The show came and went, and we were in the midst of the Megamix when those feelings of Pride finally kicked in, or should I say, knocked me on my ass."
"As I was waiting to bow, I see Josh Segarra breeze past me to enter for his “Turn the Beat Around” rap break and tucked into his back pocket is this huge Pride Flag spilling out over his right leg. I then see the ensemble men bow, and Marcos Santana and Luis Salgado are wearing rainbow Pride armbands, proudly waving them in the air. What is happening? Was there a memo on the call board I didn't read that morning? No, it was actually quite simple and deeply complex. Our straight cast members were openly showing solidarity for the LGBTQ community in this amazing moment of spontaneity on a Broadway stage. 1600 people from all walks of life were seeing those glorious colors of our rainbow fly proudly. A closeted teenager who came with his parents to the Gloria Estefan jukebox show now knew there was a future out there."
"And on the final downbeat of the music, Josh ripped that Pride Flag out of his pocket and waved it as high as he could in the air, and tears started pouring out of my eyes."
"Yes, a little less than two weeks earlier, 49 of us were physically taken from this world, but at that matinee on a Sunday in June, a little miracle happened. In front of a crowd made from all walks of life and all types of religions and various political affiliations… Pride had the final bow on Broadway."