Teens explore 9/11
By Melanie Savage
East Hampton - posted Thu., Jan. 20, 2011
The Epoch Arts facility on Skinner Street has a funky, shabby-chic vibe. It is an expansive space, yet still surprisingly cozy. There are couches to crash on. Salvaged treasures, photographs, and teen-created art adorn the walls. In the theater space, elegant repurposed light fixtures share space with industrial fluorescent strips. It is an inviting hodgepodge, giving the impression that anything, no matter the make-up, no matter the background, could find a place here.
On a recent Wednesday evening, the theater space was taken over by Breaking Silences, a group of young women aged sixth grade and up. The group has been working since early fall on a production entitled “A Time to Remember,” based on the events of Sept. 11, 2001. “Normally the plays are based on their own experiences, things the girls are going through in their own lives,” said Elizabeth Namen, Epoch Arts founder and currently the group’s theater artistic director. Namen has experience working with kids of all ages, but has a soft spot in her heart for teens. “This year we wanted to get them focused on someone other than themselves. It’s not about us. That’s why we’re doing the play.”
Originally, the group was going to produce a show written by a group of students from Stuyvesant High School, kids who witnessed the destruction of the World Trade Center and wrote about their experiences. “I came across this book, ‘With Their Eyes,’ at Barnes and Noble,” said Namen. “I thought we’d just produce the play as written.” But the girls had their own ideas. “Everyone wanted to do their own characters,” said Namen. The girls went home, did research, and came back to the theater. The result is an interesting hodgepodge that works, much like the Epoch facility itself.
“We have people from every perspective,” said Namen. “Some were on the planes, some at the school, some were spouses that were left behind. Even the hijackers themselves are represented.” Some of the girls opted to go with characters directly from the Stuyvesant production. Others went off in a different direction.
Amber Congdon was five years old on Sept. 11, 2001. She was in daycare when the Trade Center fell. Her mom worked over two hours away. “My older sister and I were the last ones there,” said Congdon, “and we were very worried about our mom.” Congdon, who has appeared in two previous Breaking Silences productions, decided to play a character called Hope. She has collected a number of poems to use during her performance.
This is the second Breaking Silences show for Aly Krauth. Krauth was also very young in 2001. “I remember being afraid for two years that someone was going to bomb my school,” she said. Krauth was originally leaning toward the part of a little girl from the “With Their Eyes” production. “Of course the first time I read that one I was sobbing,” she said. She eventually decided upon the part of a fictional passenger from real-life Flight 93, the one that crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. “I liked the idea that they sacrificed themselves to save others,” said Krauth.
Transition scenes for “Time to Remember” will feature a soundtrack of songs interspersed with dialogue from the actual event, as well as still images projected on a screen. “I think it will be really wonderful,” said Namen. “I’m so proud of these girls. This is a real departure for them. I wanted to get them looking outside of themselves. I think they are doing just great.”
“Time to Remember” will run Jan. 28 and 29 at 7 p.m. at Epoch Arts at 27 Skinner Street, East Hampton. Tickets are $5 for students and seniors, $7 for adults. For more information contact Elizabeth@epocharts.org or call 860-365-0337.
With a mission statement “To enrich lives in East Hampton and its neighboring communities with experiences in the arts,” Epoch Arts, a youth arts organization, sponsors “events, programs, and educational services which stimulate learning, self-expression and teamwork.” In addition to theater, the group offers experiences focused on music, visual arts, filmmaking and other creative arts. For more information go to www.epocharts.org.