STAUNTON — Before 2001, the date Sept. 11 held no particular meaning, unless it was your birthday or anniversary.
After 2001, Sept. 11 became another day marked by tragedy in American history.
A theater production at ShenanArts will tell stories of the individuals affected by that day.
“110 Stories” opens Sept. 12.
“The stories are the forefront of the play,” said John Kirby Craft, a 1990 Fort Defiance High graduate who lives in Staunton. “It’s almost hard to call it a play.”
Craft is the production’s director.
Audience members will be introduced to 27 characters portrayed by 14 actors. Each character is based on a real person who was affected by the tragedy of 9/11. Each character speaks to Elizabeth Gilbert, who then relayed the stories to playwright Sarah Tuft.
“[‘110 Stories’ is] not staged in the traditional sense,” Craft said. Actors have minimal costumes in the show, and maybe some will have hand props to help the audience visualize who the character is amidst the tragedy of 9/11, and “the rest of it is all about the story.”
Characters portrayed on stage will represent homeless people, fire and rescue personnel and others who were present during the tragedy.
“I’m hoping that when people leave [the theater], they’re going to remember two things. We need to remember this kind of event in our history,” Craft said. “We can be unified.”
Allison Sprouse of Stuarts Draft is portraying Karen Slade, a mother who dropped her son off at school in New York City on 9/11, then went shopping. She is also portraying Merlin Durham, a canine handler.
In preparing for both roles, Sprouse, a 1989 graduate of Waynesboro High School, said she searched online for as much information as she could find about both individuals. She found that not so easy, despite today’s world of technology.
“It’s difficult because you’re representing a real person, but the audience doesn’t know who they are, either,” said Sprouse.
She said Craft has been good with helping the actors develop each character.
Sprouse did find a photo of the son Karen searches for after she finishes shopping and starts hearing about what happened to the Twin Towers. She also found YouTube videos of interviews of Karen — but they were not about her 9/11 experience, but about her experience as a screenwriter.
Sprouse said she hopes people will come see the show and will not be dissuaded by the subject matter.
“I think it’s an important story,” Sprouse said. She hopes audience members will step out of their comfort zone and give the show a chance.
On Wednesday, local police, dispatch, rescue and fire personnel are invited for a free performance at 7 p.m. Tickets are available by calling (540) 712-0001 or calling the ShenanArts box office.
The performance is a “reminder that they’re not forgotten,” according to Craft, who is a 25-year law enforcement official.
From Sept. 12 to Sept. 14, performances will be at 7 p.m., and another is at 3 p.m. Sept. 15. Tickets are $14 for adults, $12 for seniors or college students and $8 for children younger than 18.