Play is hosting an Orlando benefit featuring the staff of Pulse. | Courtesy of Play
Play is hosting an Orlando benefit featuring the staff of Pulse. | Courtesy of Play

Let’s face it: The mass shooting that occurred on June 12 at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub could have happened in any city, including Louisville. It was that jarring reality, coupled with a close-knit LGBTQ nightclub community, that was the catalyst for Play Dance Bar‘s “#WeAreOrlando Benefit Show” that’ll be held Thursday, June 30.

What makes this fundraiser even more special is that Play owner and Louisville resident Todd Roman is flying up a handful of performers and staff from Pulse, which has remained closed since Omar Mateen, 29, opened fire in the nightclub, where 49 people were killed and many more were injured before police shot the gunman.

Members of the Pulse crew will join the Play Mates cast of drag performers on stage in the name of unity, remembrance and perseverance.

06611131acf1c8000c76d63729f03566_XLRoman tells Insider some of his staff have close, personal relationships with the Pulse entertainers, and that all proceeds from the event will go to the families of the Orlando victims.

“The attack in Orlando now adds the LGBT community to a very long list of targets from extremists,” he says. “This attack could have been directed at any one of us and at any place. It could have been your church, your grocery, mall, sports event or even our nightlife here in Louisville.”

Since the tragedy, Roman has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from Louisville residents and officials who choose to stand up and come together for a united cause. In fact, the list of names already confirmed for next Thursday’s benefit include Mayor Greg Fischer, Metro Council President David Yates and Councilmen David James and Bill Hollander. That list will continue to grow, he says.

Roman hopes the evening will be a mix of love and fun, of remembering and consoling, of moving forward and looking back — in unison.

“We see the club as much more than an entertainment venue,” says Roman. “Play is a community center, providing a safe place for those in the community and their allies to come and feel safe to express themselves just as they are — no judgment. Equality, acceptance, support and love for all.”

The “#WeAreOrlando Benefit Show” will begin at 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 30. Admission is a suggested $20, which will be donated to the families of the Orlando victims. Pulse performers Angelica Sanchez, A’zsia Dupree and Axel Andrews will join Play Mates Bianca Nicole, Jade Jolie, Leah Halston, Aubrey Jolie and many others. Play is located at 1101 E. Washington St. in Butchertown.

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Sara Havens
Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville, known around town as the Bar Belle (barbelleblog.com). She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."