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Anniversary of September 11, Opening Night

August 30, 2015

Photo on 2013-02-22 at 09.03

August 30, 2015

Yesterday Master Director Gerry Roe coached me for several hours to help me play the role of Hucklebee in the forthcoming musical, “The Fantasticks.” This play will open 9/11 in Billings at NOVA theater.
For example, he had me work on a line: “I could tell a great deal about myself. I was once in the navy.”

Previously, I had been standing there, in rehearsal, simply reciting. Yesterday I got the lowdown from Gerry.

Gerry had me go “chap chap chap” with a pair of hedge clippers, walking bent over, downstage and turning right. Then he had me stand up and imagine the word “great” printed on the handle of the clippers. Then he had me pick out someone in the audience, then tell her about myself and my (supposed) naval career.
That added some pizzaz!
And so on. We worked two and half hours. Gerry had me do all my lines with his coaching, infusing meaning, humor, and surprises in new ways. Tonight we start our last two weeks of rehearsals before our opening, September 11.

Thursday as we were wrapping up a rehearsal I suggested that our play was appropriate for remembering the national tragedy of September 11. The rest of the cast laughed at me. Oh, I’m used to it.
However, I Googled. The connection between the play’s song “Try to Remember the Kind of September” and 9/11 was first made by Amy Gamerman, a critic for The Wall Street Journal, who showed up at a performance of The Fantasticks on Sept. 14, 2001. Only about two dozen people were in the audience. This was New York!!

“A familiar old ballad,” Gamerman wrote at the time, “was suddenly transformed into plangent elegy for the innocence we had all lost . . . by the end of the song, I was in tears. So was one of the actors.”

Fast forward to 2015 and Billings. On the opening night at the NOVA theater, following a fund-raiser with appetizers, wine and beer, former Billings Mayor Chuck Tooley will speak to the audience prior to the curtain, reading a child’s essay about the tragedy of 9/11.

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One Comment
  1. mike’s parents were married in September. I love that song. It appeals to my sentimentality. But I think I would cry if I heard it in the context of 9-11. sounds like your show is going to be wonderful. and now i can really say, break a leg!

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