What's it about?
Come From Away tells the story of the town of Gander, Newfoundland. Thousands of people divert here following the events of September 11th, and a story of community, perseverance, understanding and fortuitousness emerges.
What I experienced?
Remind me to check the time of every show multiple times. For some reason, I thought the show started at 2:00 p.m., not 3:00. I guess I was used to matinees being at 2:00? At least the ones I went to recently...
So I wound up killing time at Chipotle (never a bad option, really) with my girlfriend, who came along to this show with me. I felt uneasy beforehand – having something tragic and raw cast as a musical seemed risky. I went into it not reading anything about the musical. I don’t like to spoil any aspect of my experience beforehand. Shock and awe is really something I crave in a piece of theatre, so I preserved that possibility.
The first thing that took me by surprise was just how cheery and lighthearted many of the songs and characters were. Gander was cast as a communal, friendly little town. It’s hard to associate 9/11 with feelings of happiness and friendliness, at least for me. I have a tendency to process things alone, rather than leaning on friends and family, and 9/11 was no different. I associate that time with uncertainty, unease, fear and chaos. In this show those themes (while present) did not dominate the narrative. In many ways, it was an eye-opener for me. I have always held a strong association between the events of 9/11 and New York. I was seven years old then, and even today, that association is still just as strong. Come From Away showed me that the effects were far more wide-ranging, it didn’t just impact New York City, and it didn’t just impact the U.S.A.
The musicians were on stage and often would interact with the cast and the audience. I really enjoyed that communal vibe. Folksy music combined with a hearty dose of laughs, was right up my alley! I felt as though I was in a bar or a pub, spending time with friends and sharing stories. It reminded me of another show I saw, Once, where the actors would dance together and play instruments as though they were all old friends.
I also loved the diverse sets of characters present in this play. I really sensed that accurate and faithful representation of the people who took part in the real-life events was a high priority. I was transfixed by the things I saw on the stage, things that (at least in my theatregoing experience) I hadn't seen before. I saw Muslim prayer acted out, I saw TSA screenings and felt the tension rising. Every character had fears, but there was such an array of different types of fears. I - and probably any audience member - could find someone whose fears aligned with my own on that day. I really think that this had a positive effect on my experience at the show. I felt connected to the people whose experiences of that day were nothing like mine.
I spent more of this experience laughing than anything else. It was so weird sometimes, to catch myself laughing and then remember that while they’re telling this story, people died, lives changed, and a country froze. Again, I wondered if it was okay to laugh. But I felt like tragedy, however terrible, shouldn’t swallow our memories and engulf our experience. There is still fun, laughter and joy, even when things seem most dark and uncertain. A good lesson for a play to teach, both in hindsight of the events of that day, and looking forward, in days to come.
Want to see it?
What did you experience?
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