Play relives 10-year-old memories

by Lenise Willis

Actors Jefferey West and Beth Ritson rehearse before performing in a stage reading of The Guys to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11. (courtesy photo)

Referred to as the Pearl Harbor of our generation, the collapse of the Twin Towers instilled a strange swirl of fear, sadness, pride and unity within our nation. Ten years later, Sept. 11 continues to be a “date which will live in infamy.” Those lost will live on in our memories, our history books, and even in theatre. In honor of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, a group of Greensboro volunteers will perform a staged reading of Anne Nelson’s The Guys, a two-character, one-act play that memorializes firefighters lost during the tragedy of the Twin Towers. The commemoration event is the brain child of Chris Woodworth, a UNCG theater professor who says she has garnered an amazing groundswell of support from Greensboro. “I had been looking for some way to mark the 10th anniversary of September 11th ,” Woodworth said. “When I read this play, I knew that this was the way to do it. First, I wanted us to share this remarkable story. Second, I wanted to use the telling of this story as a way to sup- port our own local firefighters.” Ultimately, it was decided that the reading should benefit the Greensboro Children’s Museum for the renovation of their Fire and Police Exhibit. “I could not have been more thrilled,” Woodworth said. “What a hopeful and joyous way to mark such a profound tragedy.” Others who helped plan the event include Allen Broach, Ken Houglan, a board member for Broach Theatre Company who also works for the state office of safety and as a fire marshal, Beth Lynch, of the Greensboro Children’s Museum and Kevin Pettigrew and David Lindsay, both of whom are members of the Greensboro Fire Department. Also volunteering their time are professional actors Jeffrey West and Beth Ritson, who will both perform the staged reading. Ritson, a founding member of Paper Lantern Theatre Co., said she was happy to volunteer her time for the project. “I am a huge fan of Chris and trust her artistic and philanthropic instincts,” she said. “So when she expressed her excitement about the script, I figured it would be a fun and worthwhile ride.” Woodworth first came across The Guys earlier in the summer while reading a collection of post-9-11 plays. “All of the plays were lovely, but this one in particular stood out to me,” Woodworth said. “Partly, it was the fact that it was based on the real-life experiences of the playwright.”

Anne Nelson, who wrote the play in just nine days, was inspired by the time she spent helping a New York City fire captain write eulogies for eight of his men who were lost during the collapse of the towers.

Recognizing that the emotions erected from 9-11 were not only bound to New York, Nelson’s raw and beautiful play expands beyond the city limit and tugs at the issues and feelings encountered by the whole nation.

“It is a story of how we might help — and subsequently heal — in the wake of unfathomable tragedy,” Woodworth said. “And it is the story of heroes who were doing their job, sacrificing their own lives for others.”

Woodworth said the play answers several questions, such as, “How do we honor the lives — not just the deaths — of those that fearlessly stormed into those towers? And how do those of us far away from NYC find our personal connection to the tragedy of 9/11 and the healing and hope that has emerged in the subsequent years?” Woodworth, who comes from a family of firefighters, says this is her way of connecting to the tragedy. “Every community has firefighters and rescue squads,” she said. “Whether the firefighters are volunteers or professionals, they put their lives on the line to help others.”

On the night of the performance, the reading will be framed by other special events, including remarks by Assistant Fire Chief Skip Nix and a special surprise by Greensboro Fire Department Honor Guard members. “Part theatrical event, part memorial, it is sure to be an unforgetta- ble night that will honor those lost on one of the most unforgettable days in human history,” Woodworth said. “That we will be raising money for the Greensboro Children’s Museum so that local kids can develop an appreciation and enthusi- asm for the work done by our local heroes makes this event all the more special.”

wanna go?

The staged reading of The Guys will be presented at Broach Theatre’s Studio B, 520 S. Elm St., Friday at 8 p.m. Tickets cost a suggested $5 minimum donation. Seating is limited and available on a first-come, first-serve basis. For more information visit or call 574-2898.