Arts and Entertainment

Couple brings 9/11 play to OTA stage

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by MATTHEW NASH
Sequim Gazette

Ten years after the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedies, husband and wife acting team Roger and Sharon Briggs of Sequim find the simple yet deeply personal play “The Guys” remains as poignant as it was at its decade-old debut.

 

“If you perform something right, it’s like the first time every time,” Roger said.

 

Anne Nelson wrote the play after meeting with a New York Fire Department captain to prepare eulogies for some of his firefighters who died during the tragedy.

 

The Briggses bring the play to the Olympic Theatre Arts Gathering Hall on Sept. 9-11.

 

Sigourney Weaver and Bill Murray first performed the play in December 2001, before it traveled around New York and was shown in intimate settings, including firehouses, for firefighters and their families, Sharon said.

 

It has played across the country, with a handful of Washington performances led by the Briggses.

 

“I feel it’s uplifting and filled with lessons,” Sharon said.

 

“The message here is that there is a way to deal with grief,” Roger said.

 

The Briggses said they honor Nelson’s vision of the play by showing no pictures from 9/11 and by keeping the performance simple. They’ll face each other on stage as if in a real interview and be in street clothes with a fire department captain’s uniform hanging next to them. Roger said their intent is to keep it intimate with the audience up close.

 

“People who go to it come out of it thinking this was special,” Sharon said. “They say they’ve heard things they’ve never heard before.”

 

Sequim’s production of “The Guys” benefits Clallam County Fire District 3’s Troop 1003 Explorer program for firefighter students to buy equipment for training.

 

In the couple’s years of researching the play, they met with many firefighters across the state. Roger spent a shift with Richland firefighters going to emergencies.

 

One of their performances was held in the Richland Fire Station. During the show a call came in. The actors stopped and everyone watched while the crews packed up and left.

 

“They’ve taught us so much. I can’t tell you how many fire trucks we’ve been in before,” Sharon said.

“We’re so proud of what they do .... They have such a relationship with each other. It’s a big group of men who share this life. You don’t hear a fireman say they don’t like their job.”


Building community

The Briggses spent 30 years in community theater, mostly around Washington, before retiring and eventually moving to Sequim in July. They are running “The Guys” with Olympic Theatre Arts’ support. Roger is slated to direct “Paragon Springs” for the theater in spring 2012.

 

Roger made his debut in a Bremerton production of “A Christmas Carol.” Sharon later got hooked on acting despite an initial reluctance to get on stage.

 

“The Guys” could be done as a reader’s theater, but the couple chose from the beginning to memorize it. They’ve rehearsed for months in their living room for all their performances, Sharon said.

 

Following their performances, they’ll host an open discussion with the audience encouraged to share their thoughts and experiences on 9/11.

 

The couple said on 9/11 their day started off like most others. Roger prepared for work, turned on the TV and saw the initial reports. He went upstairs and told Sharon he was going to work and something awful just happened and she should turn on the TV. Sharon said she watched news reports all day.

 

“We feel so fortunate to do this,” Sharon said.

 

“Plays like this don’t come along often,” Roger said.

 

The play runs about 80 minutes with no intermission.

 

For tickets, visit Olympic Theatre Arts, 414 N. Sequim Ave. or call 683-7326. Go online to www.olympic
theatrearts.org for more information.

 

 

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

 

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