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Culture Couch is WYSO's occasional series exploring the arts and culture scene in our community. It’s stories about creativity – told through creative audio storytelling.

Human Race to Debut "26 Pebbles," An Exploration of Tragedy and Hope

Playwright Eric Ulloa with his first interview subject Joanie.
Eric Ulloa
Playwright Eric Ulloa with his first interview subject Joanie.

In the aftermath of the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, actor and writer Eric Ulloa went to Newtown, Connecticut and asked the residents five questions. The answers became Ulloa’s first play, "26 Pebbles". The title reflects the 26 deaths, described by one local resident as “pebbles thrown into a pond” which created ripples that captured the attention of the entire nation.

The play debuts February 2nd at the Human Race Theatre in Downtown Dayton. Community Voices reporter Renee Wilde went behind the scenes with the playwright.

In the days after the tragic shootings in Newtown, Connecticut that left 20 children and six adults dead, an emotional President Obama addressed the Nation:

"We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years, and each time I learn the news, I react not as a president, but as anybody else would, as a parent. And that was especially true today. I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do. So our hearts are broken today."

"'26 Pebbles' came about with my frustration at the moments after the Sandy Hook tragedy, and my wanting to do something aside from just posting on Facebook or speaking into a void," says Eric Ulloa, playwright of "26 Pebbles".

"Months after, I realized that I, as an actor, and a writer, had a voice, and I could use this voice to do something. So I set off to Newtown with a series of five questions to just talk to people in the community.

Those five questions:

What was it like before 12/14, how did you get here?

Take me through your day on 12/14, from morning till the moment your head hit the pillow at night and went to bed.

How does this affect your faith?

What are your feelings about Adam Lanza, the boy who committed these murders?

And the last one was, if I were to leave you with a final word on Newtown, what would be the one word you would want the world to know Newtown by?

So then I went there, and from one very hesitant interview, ended up meeting and interviewing about sixty people. I then took all these interviews, had them transcribed, and sat there like a person with a puzzle, and then the play just kind of started writing itself. The story of how a community deals with this and comes together to find hope and light and resolution.

We sit on the sidelines too much in this country. I always say that we forget we’re a democracy. We forget that we, we are the people. And we all can do so much more than we’re doing at times. We forget that we have power by just having a voice. By having a hand to write a letter.

After this experience I just can’t stand on the sidelines anymore. I know that if I can help in some way with my writing or my voice somehow, I will always be the first person at the very front of that line leading the march.

I listen more. God what if we all just listened better? What if we all just sat down and found a common bond with each other. Could you imagine the state this country would be in if we just listened to one another, and just said ‘you may have a different view than I have, but dammit, there’s a middle ground here. And we can find it together’.

What they told me when I left was, please go tell our story. So I hope that everyone leaves and goes and tells somebody what they saw. But what I personally, I just want to leave everybody with a question actually.

My question is, can’t we do better?"

The Human Race Theatre's production of "26 Pebbles" is onstage February 2-19 at at the Loft Theatre in downtown Dayton.  More information

Renee Wilde tumbled into public radio - following a career path that has been full of creative adventures and community service. After graduating from the Ohio State University with a fine arts degree in photography - she served as the Exhibitions Coordinator for several Columbus art galleries and the Columbus Art League, while simultaneously slinging food and booze - memorably dropping a glass of orange juice on Johnny Rotten’s bare feet when he answered the hotel room door in just his skivvies (his response, “would shit be the appropriate word?”).