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Sept. 11 turned a journalism professor into a playwright; ‘The Guys’ opens Aug. 29 at ShoppingTown

— 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.

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