By Kevin Smith
Photo Courtesy of Tom Willett
Based on real-life stories of Sept. 11, "The Guys" will show tonight through Saturday at the Cabaret Theatre, 330 S. Scott Ave. The show costs $8.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday September 10, 2002
Local theater group helps commemorate Sept. 11's real-life
Watching CNN's coverage of the anniversary of Sept. 11 may not give a Tucson viewer the complete story as to what actually went down on those New York City streets and who was actually doing the heroic tasks the way "The Guys" will.
Written just after the attacks, "The Guys" is a play based on actual events that recounts the stories of the men behind the yellow and black fire jackets that showed the world what it meant to be a hero.
It follows the real life story of a New York City journalist who was approached by a New York fire captain after the attacks to help him write numerous eulogies for the men lost in his station. The play centers around the captain's description of four men in his squadron who were lost on that day and the writer's ability to come to terms with the human face of the events.
"The story is about these two people that are coming to this experience from completely different perspectives," said Tammy Meneghini, the actress who plays the journalist. "Him (the fire chief) having lost his men, she having experienced through the media and the interaction between the two of them coming to terms."
"You get all these feelings out. In a strange way, all those emotions and all that sadness kind of makes you feel better. It's like a catharsis."
- Harold Dixon
UA Theatre and Acting Professor
Anne Nelson, the playwright who took the real life experience and made it into a theatrical one, kept the firefighters' names and particular attributes private while she molded characters based on the real men.
Harold Dixon, UA theatre and acting professor who plays the fire captain in the Tucson production, said that although the particular firefighters described in "The Guys" may not be wholly accurate, it is all truth.
"She made composite characters," Dixon said. "There's nothing in the play that the fire captain didn't tell her. If she's talking about a certain guy named Bill in the play, the name Bill is made up but maybe the attributes of Bill are the combination of two or three other firefighters that that captain talked about."
The original play for "The Guys" was formed by Nelson and Jim Simpson, husband of actress Sigourney Weaver. Simpson wanted to create a play that would help bring life back to the New York theatre community and also help people cope with the trauma.
All parties, including the fire captain, agreed and the play's first inception had Sigourney Weaver and Bill Murray playing the role of the journalist and fire captain. In an action that reflected the communal time, the two stars decided to do something against the modern vein of the entertainment business.
"Sigourney Weaver and Bill Murray agreed to go around from firehouse to firehouse and from community to community and do it for free for these people," Meneghini said. "The effects that it had were phenomenal in that people were able to memorialize their friends and family.
I know from communications that it was extremely powerful and accepted and loved by the families and the friends of the people that were lost."
Meneghini also said that the play cuts through the media's filtration of the situation: that of making the firefighters and police officers out to be larger than life.
"This play makes them just ordinary guys that were in an
extraordinary situation," Meneghini said.
Both actors have their reasons for wanting to dredge up those horrific emotions and events in front of an audience. Dixon sees the stage as a healing tool for getting things out in the open and dealing with them.
"What the theater can do is it can take you through something so you come out the other side more healthy, "Dixon said. "You get all these feelings out. In a strange way, all those emotions and all that sadness kind of makes you feel better. It's like a catharsis."
For Meneghini, who lives in New York, it gives her the chance to relive the experience in way she was unable to the previous year.
"Last year when I was going through it I was all by myself," Meneghini said. "My family all lives in Colorado and I was working and doing my thing and it made it really, really hard to try to deal with it alone. Bringing up these emotions and these things that we all were feeling, it's hard ÷ but it's a lot easier to do with a group of people."
Meneghini hopes, if anything, that this play and these events help put a face not only on the passed firefighters, but also on fellow Americans.
"I have a line in the play where I say, ╬We have no idea what wonders lie hidden in the people around us,'" Meneghini said. "For me, what 9/11 did was it gave our nation a sense of identity, identity as a people. We are all these different kinds of people from different places but we don't have one identity and I hope that what this play does is it causes people to want to go out and connect with each other and their community and their family.
There are two things that 9/11 could have done, it could've caused you to isolate yourself in a little cocoon or caused you to want to be a part of something way bigger and that's what I hope the play does."
"The Guys" shows tonight at 7:30 and runs through Saturday at the Cabaret Theatre, 330 S. Scott Ave. It will then move for Sept. 18 to Sept. 20 showings to the Tucson Convention Center's Leo Rich Theatre, 260 S. Church Ave.
Tickets are $8 and are available at the door or at the Open Theatre. For more information call 326-1293.