Fulton theater project to recall 9/11

Fulton theater student Jenna Burton shares a video about the 9/11 terrorist attacks with (from left) Tucker Thomas, Luke Nigus, Makayla Lee and Mara Franklin as they rehearse for their upcoming production of “War at Home,” a play based on the journal entries of students near New York City after 9/11. Tickets to a 7 p.m. showing on Tuesday are $3. Students also will be collecting donations for soldier care packages.

Fulton theater student Jenna Burton shares a video about the 9/11 terrorist attacks with (from left) Tucker Thomas, Luke Nigus, Makayla Lee and Mara Franklin as they rehearse for their upcoming production of “War at Home,” a play based on the journal entries of students near New York City after 9/11. Tickets to a 7 p.m. showing on Tuesday are $3. Students also will be collecting donations for soldier care packages.

The only thing Fulton High School sophomore Cynthia Fague remembers about Sept. 11, 2001, is that lunch recess was cut short that day.

“We were on the playground at recess after lunch and the church bells started ringing and Mark Jacobson took off his hat and just got down on his knees,” recalled Fague, who was a first grader at St. Peter School at the time. “Then the principal came out and said we were going to the church to say a rosary because of a bunch of people just died for our country.”

Beyond that, Fague said she never really knew a lot about what happened that day, or even why it was so important.

After Fague and her classmates put on a production of “War at Home,” a play comprised of journal entries written by students living an hour outside of New York City right after 9/11, this week — including a 7 p.m. show on Tuesday that is open to the public — she and Fulton theater teacher Mikelle Cortez are hoping the events of that day will be a little more real for the rest of the students at the high school and the community at large.

Her students’ lack of knowledge about a day Cortez said she will never forget is one of the reasons she decided to take on a different project for the second semester of her second-year theater class — which usually focuses on Shakespeare at that time.

Looking for other ideas, Cortez found something she thought might interest her students while at a workshop in New York City: A play called “War at Home.” Cortez said she was shocked when she showed her students a YouTube video compilation of news coverage from 9/11, and they did not seem to recall the events or understand why the news anchors seemed to be so emotionless and she had to explain to them that they were in shock.

“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, they don’t remember,’” Cortez said. “I had to tell them (how) 9/11 was all-consuming; nothing else mattered, nothing else was on, life stopped.”

In the weeks since she first introduced the idea to her students, Cortez’s class has been working not only on putting together their production of “War at Home,” but also on a number of other side projects to help put 9/11 into a stronger focus and perspective for themselves and their audience.

“Besides the play itself, I have put together a video called ‘Heaven.’ This little girl is talking to her dad in heaven (after 9/11) and I choreographed a dance to go with it,” Fague said. “It was originally a YouTube video with a girl talking, but I added pictures and music.”

Classmate Marah Franklin, also a sophomore, said she was putting together a video of interviews with area resdients who had family members who have served in the military and been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since the 2001 terrorist attack.

“My friend is doing a video with people who had family members in New York that day, and we’ve done posters for people who passed away that day, and we’re collecting stuff to send care packages to soldiers,” Franklin said.

Fellow sophomore Brittany Ledet was in charged of making a video about the twin towers getting hit, and also will be singing. She said her favorite thing about working on the “War at Home” project has been learning more about the events of that day.

“I didn’t know anything about it, so it was really cool researching it,” Ledet said. “A bunch of kids in my grade do remember it, and it’s something that impacted our country.

“I’m really excited to inform people about what happened and the talk-back with the audience.”

Franklin said gaining a better understanding of 9/11 and its impact on our country also has been her favorite part of the project.

“None of us really remembered it. To us it was just statistics and number facts,” Franklin said. “I liked getting to talk to people and know more about it.

“We’re coming away with a better understanding of that day. It’s going to be more than facts, it’s going to be more personal and real.”

Fague shared the same view as her classmates, noting that her favorite part of the learning process was a recent visit from FHS grad and war veteran Tyler Huffman.

“I think the most interesting thing was yesterday we had a guy come in (Huffman) that had served in Afghanistan after graduating,” Fague said Friday. “I learned a bunch of stuff about the Taliban and why we’re fighting. That was really cool.”

She said she hopes there is a good turnout for the community production on Tuesday night.

“It’s a way of teaching people about what exactly went on and what’s still going on — how it’s still impacting us,” Fague said. “I really want to make people cry with the video and I’m looking forward to the talk-back — I’m anxious to see what they ask and what they take away from it.”

“I’m really excited to inform people about what happened and the talk-back with the audience,” Ledet agreed. “You’ll walk around and think about it and say, ‘Wow, I’ve never thought about it that way.’”

Cortez again said one of her main goals for the production — and one of the reasons she thinks community members should come see the results of her students’ hard work — is to remember.

“The biggest thing is, I think it’s something we have to remember, something we should never forget. What this experience has taught me is the next generation has forgotten and doesn’t understand the impact,” Cortez said. “We need to remember how close our country was right after the attacks. We forget how powerful those feelings were.”

Tickets to the 7 p.m. showing of “War at Home” are $3, with half the proceeds of the evening going to the Twin Tower Orphan Foundation. A second staging of “War at Home” to be held in fall 2011 will send all proceeds to the 9/11 Memorial. During the Tuesday night production, the class also will be taking donations for the soldier care packages.

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