Remembering 9/11

The kick-off to TimeLine’s 2011-12 season has been busier than ever before, with two shows opening at two different venues, A Walk in the Woods at Theater Wit and The Pitmen Painters at our home on Wellington Avenue). I couldn’t be more proud of each of these shows – both incredibly provocative and surprisingly hilarious – and the rush to get them opened in a span of just a couple weeks has been exhilarating.

To add another major project to our plate at the same time might have seemed foolish, except when it’s a project of such great importance and potential impact – our readings of The Guys by Anne Nelson on September 11 and 12 at The Mercury Theater to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of 9/11. We are incredibly honored to feature two of Chicago’s finest actors, Francis Guinan and Ora Jones, under the direction of Lou Contey, and to partner with Ignite The Spirit, a Firefighter charity, to raise funds to support Emergency Responders.

I dearly hope you won’t miss it.

The Guys is about the effects of the collapse of the World Trade Center on Nick, an FDNY captain who reaches out to Joan, a writer, to help prepare the eulogies for an unprecedented number of firefighters who died under his command that day.  This powerful and widely-acclaimed play debuted off-Broadway on December 4, 2001, and since then it has been presented in 48 US states and around the world.

Francis Guinan and Ora Jones star in TimeLine’s reading of “The Guys”

I encourage you to be a part of this opportunity to make an impact – not just through a stirring evening of theater and remembrance, but also by financially impacting the lives of everyday heroes in our community, Emergency Responders. Tickets for The Guys are free, but donations will be accepted to directly benefit Ignite the Spirit, a not-for-profit organization in Chicago that was founded in 2003 by Chicago Firefighters to support EMTs, Paramedics, Firefighters and their families in times of hardship.

I’m sure that you will never forget where you were or what you were doing on September 11, 2001. I was downtown when the news started to come into focus, and the building I was in was efficiently evacuated. Before departing I quickly phoned my brother who worked in Manhattan and my sister who was at an event at the United Nations headquarters that day. And my parents were in the air, on a flight home from a vacation. I couldn’t get through to any of them, and made the long trek home on the Brown Line, staring up at the sky the entire time, perhaps more scared than ever before. Once home, I thankfully discovered that my family was all well, and, like all of you I’m sure, spent the day glued to the television and talking incessantly on the phone with loved ones.

At TimeLine, we were scheduled to have rehearsal that evening for Arthur Miller’s witch-hunt classic The Crucible, a play that took on chilling new resonance when we opened it in early October 2001. We struggled that afternoon with a decision about whether or not to forge ahead with our plan for that night, or to cancel. Somehow thinking that the sense of community in a rehearsal room would be helpful, we went ahead, a decision that I regretted almost immediately upon showing up, and one that even to this day I wish I could have back. It was clear that many in the room just weren’t in a position to work that night. We each brought a mixed bag of emotions into the room, with some former New Yorkers still uncertain about the well-being of loved ones. And, while a sense of community was indeed a positive, attempting to re-focus on rehearsing a play wasn’t as easy or appropriate as we had thought.

About a year ago, my TimeLine colleague David Parkes brought The Guys to our Company Members, and the flood of those memories of 9/11/01 came rushing back, along with the astonishment that this year marks its 10th Anniversary. We immediately knew that we had to do something with this stirring play to not only commemorate it but to try to rekindle the sense of community, fellowship, charity and gratitude that swept through our nation. Partnering with Ignite The Spirit and working with these everyday heroes – Chicago Emergency Responders – is an honor and privilege.

I invite you to share your memories of 9/11 – where you were, what you were doing, and how you spent the hours and days in its wake — in the comments below.

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