Days after the tragedies of Sept. 11, the Bat Theatre Company commissioned a play about the repercussions of the fatal terrorist attack. That commission turned into The Guys, a hit for the company which is still running at the theatre's Tribeca space.
Well, the Bat wasn't the only troupe thinking along socially-minded lines. One week after the fall of the World Trade Center, The Present Company—the people behind the New York International Fringe Festival—called on four writers to pen new plays about Sept. 11. The resulting works will run under the title Stories About What Happened, May 9-June 1.
The project began with a Present Company-sponsored meal, in which artists and audience members gathered to talk about what had happened to their city. The event was enough of a success for the company, which is run by Elena Holy, to commission dramas from Leslie Bramm (who wrote two titles), C. Rusch and Julia Barclay.
Bramm's plays are Lovers Leapt and The Uncaring Dog. The first, to be directed by Scott Levy, takes its inspiration from the familiar and horrifying photos of people who chose to leap from the WTC to their deaths, rather than perish in the flames consuming the buildings. The story centers on two people who, having always longed to connect, finally do so in these final moments of life.
The Uncaring Dog, directed by Virginia Scott, examines the random nature of fate by looking at a boy and his recalcitrant dog. When he wrote The New Sign, Rusch was thinking of the many impromptu and supportive signs and banners which appeared across the nation in the days after the attacks. Sign will be directed by Larry Rosen. The tale is set in a Southern town near a military base, where two restaurant workers are putting up the letters for a new sign and struggling over what message they ought to convey.
Barclay's No One is the most abstract of the bunch. According to press notes, it is "a meditation on where we are now. The primary themes are non-violence and war, the need for adequate translators, and the identity of the 'enemy.'" Barclay will direct a different group of actors each evening. The author has patterned the piece on a jam session by jazz musicians.
In a nod to the evening's origins, Wednesday evening performances of Stories will be followed by a community dinner and discussion.
Stories About What Happened will run at The Present Company Theatorium, located at 198 Stanton Street (between Ridge and Attorney Streets). Tickets are $12. For information call (212) 420-8877.
—By Robert Simonson