ORLANDO, FLA.: In light of a recent announcement that the Westboro Baptist Church plans to protest funerals for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting, Orlando theatres have partnered to protect so the victims’ families and friends can grieve in peace. Orlando Shakespeare Theater (OST) has started the “Angel Wing Project,” for which the company will build large wings to protect mourners from seeing the anti-gay protesters.
The idea came from Romaine Patterson, who used what she called Angel Action Wings in 1999 to fight back against an anti-homosexual group when the members picketed the trials for Matthew Shepard’s killers. The killing of the 21-year-old for being gay inspired Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Project‘s The Laramie Project.
OST’s artistic director Jim Helsinger reached out to Kaufman when he heard that Westboro would be protesting the funerals, and Kaufman suggested Angel Action Wings. OST’s costume shop, with the help of volunteers from arts community, is in the process of sewing wing suits—angel costumes with large white wings—which company members will wear to block the hateful anti-gay picket signs brandished by members of the Westboro Baptist Church. Patrons and artists from the community donated the funds and labor to build the wings.
“Angel wings are meant as a loving support to the fallen, not to create more anger or violence,” Helsinger says.
Orlando Repertory Theatre (ORT) is also working with OST on the logistics of filing for counter-protest permits and schedules. A Facebook group has been created to keep the public informed on how and when they can show up for the peaceful counter-protests.