Theater honors 9/11 victims

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Theater honors 9/11 victims

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2,977. That’s the number of people who died in the attacks of 9/11. But the aftermath of the terrorism reaches much farther. In the years following the attacks, over a half million New York City residents suffered from some form of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Playwright David Rimmer wrote “New York” to raise funds for volunteer psychiatrists dedicated to helping these patients who were psychologically affected by 9/11. This fall, the Baker Theater Department will bring “New York” to Baldwin City.

“It’s going to be a special event and a moving night in the theater,” Associate Professor of Theater Tom Heiman said. “It’s a bunch of downers, no doubt about it, but there should be a lot of talk when the whole thing is done.”

The 16-scene play follows 14 individuals on their journey to come to terms with the events of 9/11. They recount their pain, strength and heartbreak to a psychiatrist, in a powerful, yet simple, display.

“A subject like this can be tough, but this playwright did an amazing job of developing his characters and creating a play that tugs at the heartstrings while still being inspirational,” junior Cheyenne Queen said. Queen will be playing a human resource director who lost a friend in the attacks. “I think the audience will take away an understanding of how lives were affected and are still being affected.”

Of those who perished during the initial attacks and the subsequent collapses of the towers, 343 were New York City firefighters, another 23 were New York City police officers and 37 others were officers at the Port Authority.

As Rimmer did, the BU production will raise money in honor of policemen and firefighters.

“When we contacted the local departments, I said ‘what do you all need? We want to do something for you,’” Heiman said. “They all referred us to charities outside of their organization. They couldn’t think of a thing that we could do for them, and that was so cool.”

The money raised will go to Muscular Dystrophy Association to be donated in the name of the firefighters and also the Cy Middleton Memorial Fund. This is a fund that aids police officers and their families who are stricken with illnesses or death.

“9/11 just reassured my job as a volunteer firefighter for a small town that anything can happen,” Allen Craig, Baldwin City fire chief, said. “I’ve been in the department for 43 years. I’m the only one here who was at the Kappa Sigma fire, and I hope to never have to fight a fire for Baker again.”

The show will open at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 11 in Rice Auditorium. It will run through Sept. 14 at the same time and have a final showing at 2 p.m. on Sept. 15.

Most Baker productions open on Thursdays, but Heiman believes that the power of starting the show on the anniversary and adding an extra day, will give more people an opportunity to experience what the play has to offer.

“Theater by its nature is supposed to effect change in the audience, laughing, crying, something,” Heiman said. “At its best, theater can effect change in a group beyond one evening, and that’s what I believe this play will do. It avoids being a soap opera. It’s not overdone; it’s just real.”

Following the first night, there will be a “talk back” with Director of Counseling Center Tim Hodges when the audience can talk about their experiences with 9/11, or any traumatic incident they have had. The cast and crew hope that the play will reach farther than just entertainment.

“With the way we are performing (the play), I hope the audience can relate to one another and come out with a strengthened relationship between them and have found patriotism that keeps them talking about this tragic day for a long time,” Queen said.