Friday, September 06, 2002

'The Guys' a poignant NYC story

Local production is a first

By Rebecca Billman,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati will be the first theater outside New York to host a performance of The Guys, a play inspired by the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center. It opens tonight at the theater in Over-the-Rhine.

        In another first for the theater, the play will be performed at Cincinnati Country Day School Wednesday — the one-year anniversary of the attacks.

        “We've never taken a play out of the building,” said Sue Cohen, representative of the Ensemble Theatre.

        But when Richard Schwab, head of the middle school, asked Ensemble to perform for the students, artistic director D. Lynn Meyers embraced the idea.

        “We thought as an artistic team, "what better way to spend the day than with young people who are going to change the future?'

        “If what we do can be part of helping them understand or come to terms (with the tragedy), we're not just artists in the theater, but we're making a difference in the community.”

        The Guys, written by Anne Nelson, a journalism professor at Columbia University, is based on her experience helping a distraught and shocked fire captain find the words to eulogize eight of his men.

        “It's not exactly your typical play,” said Ms. Meyers. “It was an immediate journalist's reaction. It was done out of need. This wasn't meant to be a play. It's real — it's a first draft. That's what's so compelling about it.”

        It has been playing at New York's Flea Theatre since December.

        When Ms. Meyers heard about it, she began hounding (by her own admission) the producer to let her have the rights to show it here.

        After Mr. Schwab read a description of the play, he knew he wanted his students, grades 6-12, to see it.

        He said the events of Sept. 11 are the “Kennedy assassination” for this generation and as an educator he had the responsibility to help them deal with the experience.

        “Hopefully (the play) will put a bookend on the event and celebrate the heroes through these eulogies that are presented.”

        The set at the theater comprises an orderly apartment that sits atop a pile of twisted steel beams from demolished buildings that represents the rubble. It will be replicated as closely as possible at Cincinnati Country Day School's new Keeler Theater.

        Dennis Parlato and Amy Warner star in The Guys, which opens tonight and runs through Sept. 22. Performances are 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays at Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, 1127 Vine St. There will be 2 p.m. matinees on Sept. 8, 21 and 22. Part of the proceeds will benefit the New York Firemen's Association.


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