The theatre world got through Sept. 11 by keeping busy. Some addressed the anniversary of last year's terrorist attacks by staging Anne Nelson's two-hander about a fireman attempting to compose eulogies to his fallen men, The Guys. The play was presented in Chicago, North Carolina, and at New York's Lincoln Center Theater, and is surely well on its way to becoming one of the most produced works of the season. (In Canada, the film version of The Guys premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 11).
Those actors who weren't performing in The Guys, or at the Tribeca Playhouse as part of the Worth Street Theater's "Stage Door Canteen," were likely to be found at Manhattan's Town Hall, where more than 150 theatre artists came together for Brave New World—a three-day benefit performance designed to commemorate the anniversary. The unique event ran for four performances, Sept. 9-11.
The line-up, particularly on the first and final nights, was rather awe-inspiring. A few items on the menu: The Other Line, a new play by Alfred Uhry, with Dana Ivey, directed by Doug Hughes; "A Song for LaChanze" a new song by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, written for and sung by LaChanze, who lost her husband, financial trader Calvin Gooding, in the attacks; and No One You Know by Neal Bell, performed by Peter Gallagher and Lorraine Bracco, directed by Mark Wing Davey. It was hard to imagine anyone complaining about this host of talent's overwhelming attempt to grapple artistically with the tragedy and its repercussions. But never discount Bruce Weber, the New York Times second stringer who has never encountered a show about which he didn't harbor a reservation. One had to admire his (no doubt unconscious) gall as—seemingly oblivious to the special circumstances surrounding the event—he gave a blow-by-blow account of what he felt was a bit hit or miss venture that left him "frustrated." It's a feeling with which his readers are familiar.
Several New York shows dashed out of the gate this week, including three Off-Broadway musicals: Jolson and Company, Little Ham and A Man of No Importance. The latter is the latest work by the aforementioned Ahrens and Flaherty. Touring news? We've got touring news. As expected, Hairspray, the smash musical comedy set in 1962 Baltimore, will launch its first U.S. tour Sept. 9, 2003, at the Mechanic Theatre in Baltimore. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza will ride beyond Manhattan following the Dec. 5 Broadway bow of the new revival of Man of La Mancha. The tour will go out sometime during the 2003-04 season. And the national tour of Thoroughly Modern Millie will launch in summer 2003 in Kansas City, MO.
And there was one road show that got underway this week. Nothing big. Why, there was hardly any publicity at all for a little shoestring entertainment called The Producers, which made a modest start Sept. 10 at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh. Perhaps it will gain some momentum as word of mouth picks up. Finally, a few passings. Cliff Gorman, the fiery performer who won an Obie for The Boys in the Band and a Tony Award for Lenny, died at 65. Also gone is Rolf Fjelde, perhaps the most important translator of Ibsen's work in America. Lastly, Kim Hunter, the actress whose long and rich stage career included playing Stella in the original Broadway production and subsequent film of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, died, at 79, in her Greenwich Village apartment Sept. 11.
—By Robert Simonson