Anne Nelson, the director of International Programs for the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, had never written a play.
But then Sept. 11, 2001 became an unexpected inspiration.
After terrorists brought down New York City’s Twin Towers, Nelson came across a story so personal that journalism wouldn’t do it justice. She could only tell it by writing a stage play, “The Guys,” a 90-minute two-character play that opened in December 2002 at Tribeca’s Flea Theater. That debut production starred Sigourney Weaver and Bill Murray, and Weaver reprised her role in the 2002 film version co-starring Anthony LaPaglia.
“New York, my beautiful, gleaming, wounded city,” a woman says as she walks onto the stage. Joan, to be played at DeWitt’s CNY Playhouse by JoAnne Rougeux, explains that she learned about the 9/11 attacks when her dad called from Oklahoma and told her to turn on the TV.
Joan receives another unexpected phone call on behalf of Nick Flanagan – played here by Nathan Faudree – a fire department captain who has lost most of his men in the attack. He’s looking for a writer to help him with the eulogies he must present at their memorial services.
“The Guys” will open at the CNY Playhouse at ShoppingTown at 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 29 and will run through Sept 11.
“This is a very important and artistic show for us,” said the playhouse’s executive director, Dustin Czarny. “This Central NY premiere tells a story of the aftermath of 9/11 and the personal tragedy of a fire captain and an editor.”
Directed here by Pat Catchouny, “The Guys” focuses on four eulogies written that day about Bill, “a regular guy,” Jimmy “the probie,” Patrick, Nick’s best friend, and Barney, who everyone loved. There are small comforts and moments of laughter when Nick tells a funny story about how 30-year-old Barney still lived with his parents and how they were all terrible cooks.
The New York Times stated, “Ms. Nelson’s play…gives credible and powerful voice to a very specific kind of pain…perhaps the keenest message to emerge from ‘The Guys’ is the assertion that writers – and actors – have a serious role to play in a grieving society.”
CNY Playhouse is partnering with Raymour & Flanigan, 3430 Erie Blvd. East, on a blood drive to be conducted from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 11. Anyone donating blood will get one free ticket to a CNY Playhouse production.
The play runs here for seven performances Aug. 29 to Sept. 11, at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays, Aug. 31 and Sept. 7. Tickets cost $10 on Thursdays and Sundays, $15 Fridays and Saturdays. CNY Playhouse is located near the Macy’s entrance at DeWitt’s ShoppingTown Mall; 885-8960; cnyplayhouse.com.
Less than two weeks after the Sept. 11th attacks, New Yorkers are still in shock. One of them, an editor named Joan, receives an unexpected phone call on behalf of Nick, a fire captain who has lost most of his men in the attack. He’s looking for a writer to help him with the eulogies he must present at their memorial services. Nick and Joan spend a long afternoon together, recalling the fallen men through recounting their virtues and their foibles, and fashioning the stories into memorials of words. In the process, Nick and Joan discover the possibilities of friendship in each other and their shared love for the unconquerable spirit of the city. As they make their way through the emotional landscape of grief, they draw on humor, tango, the appreciation of craft in all its forms—and the enduring bonds of common humanity. “The Guys” is based on a true story.
Nick and Joan, two people who under normal circumstances never would have met, jump the well-defined tracks of their own lives and learn about themselves, about life, and about the healing power of human connection, through talking about the guys.
“New York, my beautiful, gleaming, wounded city,” a woman says as she walks onto the stage. Joan, played by Pamela Nichols Galle, explains that she learned about the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Towers when her dad called from Oklahoma and told her to turn on the TV.
Four eulogies are written that day about Bill, “a regular guy;” Jimmy “the probie;” Patrick, Nick’s best friend; and Barney, who everyone loved. There are small comforts and moments of laughter when Nick tells a funny story about how Barney still lived with his parents even though he was 30 years old or how they were all terrible cooks. In between recollections, Joan speaks directly to the audience. The interruptions works like a moment of reflection in literature, where the author allows the reader a chance to look back on what just happened. “Nick and I weren’t supposed to meet each other,” she says. “People all over the city were jumping tracks, going outside their normal lives.” Through Joan, we’re reminded of the good things that can come from catastrophe and the beauty that exists side by side with the pain.
Nelson—who is the director of the International Programs for the Graduate School of Journalism—journalism was as familiar as city landmarks.
Sept. 11 changed all that. Though Nelson had appreciated theater since her undergraduate days performing in musical theater at Yale, she never expected that the tragedy of the attacks would redirect her writing career, let alone introduce her to a real-life cast of characters that included a New York City fire captain, two movie stars and the director of an off-Broadway theater.
But Nelson came across a story so personal she could only tell it by turning to another genre altogether: playwriting. The result is the workshop production of “The Guys,” a 90-minute play that opened Dec. 4 to sold-out audiences at Tribeca’s Flea Theater and runs through Dec. 20. Based on Nelson’s own interactions with a fire captain, “The Guys” is directed by Jim Simpson, and stars his wife, actress Sigourney Weaver in her unofficial return to off-Broadway theater, as the editor. The fire captain is played by Weaver’s good friend and fellow actor, Bill Murray.
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