Newtown Is ‘Our Town’ in ‘26 Pebbles’ A new play about Sandy Hook

Actor-writer Eric Ulloa was catering a holiday party, just days after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012, when he was taken aback by how “everyone was laughing and dancing and enjoying themselves.  I thought, ‘How could the world keep spinning after this horrific thing had just happened?’”

Of course, he understood life does go on, but he could not stop thinking about how 20 children and six adults had just been killed. He aired his feelings on social media and obsessively followed the news as the coverage shifted from stories about the murders, the killer and the victims’ families to stories about gun and mental health legislation.

"26 Pebbles" at Dayton's Human Race Theatre

"26 Pebbles" at Dayton's Human Race Theatre

Eventually the media encampment left the picturesque New England town and Ulloa thought, “What happens now to the people who live there?” So, he thought: “I can do something. I can use my art.”

What evolved was 26 Pebbles, which is receiving its world premiere at the Human Race Theatre in Dayton, Ohio. (The collegiate premiere was presented at the University of Wisconsin—La Crosse and a benefit reading was held at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., last year.)

When Ulloa began working on the project, he knew he wanted to speak with people in Newtown, but not specifically to any of the victims’ families and friends. First Ulloa reached out to Moises Kaufman, whose Tectonic Theater Project created The Laramie Project, following the murder of Matthew Shepard in 1998. The show was also based on interviews, and Ulloa sought Kaufman’s input on where to start.

“Moises was so kind and gave me some great advice,” says Ulloa. “He also said I had a tool that he didn’t: Facebook. That was a way I could begin to connect with people there. I couldn’t just show up and say, ‘Excuse me, ma’am,’ at the grocery store. That would have been so inappropriate.”