ORANGE / 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, streaming May 13 to 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 as they reflect on the community they all still think of as home.
“2.2 Square Miles of Soul” is the culmination of a yearlong collaboration between Luna Stage and Ping Chong and Company, led by Christina Bixland and Matthew Martinez. It features creative consultant Turron Kofi Alleyne, 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 six 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,” Bixland said. “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.”
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 Orange community over the course of the last century, including historic disinvestment, demographic change and the fight for representative government. The film 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.