Sunday, December 13, 2009

SOB's Theatrical Firsts Of The Noughties: My First Return To New York After 9/11

SOB's Theatrical Firsts Of The Noughties: My First Return To New York After 9/11

Over the course of the last decade, I’ve been truly fortunate to enjoy a number of enlightening firsts in my personal theatergoing that have only served to increase my deep and abiding love for the art form known as live theatre. What follows is one of my ten favorite experiences of the last ten years.

No recollection of the past ten years in theatre could be complete without remembering the horrific events of 9/11.

While I’ll leave it to others to thoroughly discuss what transpired that day, I was struck by how quickly the Broadway community rallied together to truly go on with the show. In the aftermath of 9/11, I was also struck by Mayor Rudy Guliani's message to the rest of the world: “Come to New York and stay in a hotel, do some shopping and see a show.”

I made my pilgrimage to the city in early October. While there were countless reminders of 9/11 to be seen everywhere, particularly through the extensive array of ubiquitous volunteer workers, the city seemed kinder and gentler than I had ever remembered it being. I never felt more welcome as a guest as I did on that visit.

True to the mayor’s prescribed list, I checked into a midtown hotel, did the requisite shopping and made sure I bought tickets to not one, but two Broadway shows. First up was the Tony-winning revival of a quintessential New York classic 42nd Street starring Christine Ebersole.

I followed that up with a very early preview for The Women that featured an all-star cast, including Cynthia Nixon, Kristen Johnston, Jennifer Coolidge, Mary Louise Wilson, Jennifer Tilly, Rue McClanahan and Amy Ryan.

I loved them both, but what I especially loved was the esprit de corps I felt with my fellow audience members. It was as if we really were in this together.

While our attendance was a mere pittance compared to the selfless efforts of those toiling around the clock at the southern end of Manhattan, there was a shared sense that we were at least doing something in providing a tiny economic shot in the arm to this recovering city. Never before had I felt a sense of community with my fellow theatregoers like I did while seeing those two shows.

Initially, I had no intention of going to Ground Zero on that trip, my New York City friends implored me to go. Their message was simple -- it was important for people to bear witness to what I saw. On the Sunday morning after I had enjoyed The Women, I took the subway as far as I could to Chambers Street and then walked. Nothing could have prepared me for the magnitude of the World Trade Center’s still smoldering ruins. I couldn’t help but break down and cry.

Just as I'll never forget the carnage terrorists wrought on the greatest city on the planet, I'll always remember how everyone seemed to come together for a few brief shining moments in the wake of the attacks. I'll forever cherish those days I spent in New York City to witness it first-hand.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

In keeping with the new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations that unfairly discriminate against bloggers, who are now required by law to disclose when they have received anything of value they might write about, please note that I have received nothing of value in exchange for this post. I paid my own way for these performances.

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At 14 December, 2009, Blogger Esther said...

What a moving remembrance, SOB. Thank-you for sharing it.

That "I Love NY" commercial always gets me choked up. Good for you for going back to New York and to Broadway so soon after 9/11. And what great shows you picked! I'd especially like to see 42nd Street someday.

From living in Israel for a year I know the importance of just carrying on with your daily life. And I know just how much New Yorkers appreciated your visit when it would have been so easy to stay away.

At 16 December, 2009, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Thanks Esther. I can still vividly recall every aspect of that weekend in New York, but the thing I'll never forget was the incredible hospitality of New Yorkers welcoming me to the city, even as recovery crews were everywhere to be seen.


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