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Serving the Theatre Community since 1998

Issue #73: September 15, 2001

Due to the horrifying attacks on the United States on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I believe it is appropriate to bring to my readers the following article from Playbill On Line, which appeared on Wednesday.

By Robert Viagas

NEW YORK On September 10, the night before the terror attack on Manhattan, Mandy Patinkin concluded his solo show at the Neil Simon Theatre in an unusual way.

He carefully unrolled a tine Israeli flag (to applause), then a Palestinian flag (to substantially less applause), and set them, side by side, on a stool at center stage. Then Patinkin, as his wont, shrieked aloud startling everyone who had been listening to him croon Sondheim for most of the evening. It was a cry of pain for all the hatred and fighting that seemed so far away.

Then pianist Paul Ford began to play, and Patinkin began to intone Oscar Hammerstein II's words from South Pacific, which so many theatre fans know so well: "You've got to be taught to hate and fear. You've got to be taught from year to year. It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear. You've got to be carefully taught."

There's no way anyone in that audience could have guessed that, within hours, Manhattan itself would be under attack by air from people who had been taught, just so.

New Yorkers are tough as nails, as the city's emergency services workers would spend the next day proving. The first attacks on the World Trade Center came around 9:00AM. You'd think that people would flee such a high-profile landmark as Times Square. But no; by 9:30AM, people began to gather at the crossroads of the world, as they have in all great triumphs and disasters of the last century. Thousands of people packed in to watch the news unfold on the giant TV screens over ABC and NASDAQ even though the smoke from the burning World Trade Center was clearly visible down Broadway and Seventh Avenue.

People were weeping at the images, and many were cursing at their non-working cell phones. A lot of them, probably, were praying. Theatre lovers had a special prayer, addressed to God, Allah, Yahweh, Thanos (muse of Comedy) and perhaps especially to Melpomene (muse of Tragedy): Please don't let them hit us here. Please don't let them destroy Broadway. Please don't let any more people be killed and hurt. AIDS almost did us in. We don't need this, too.

People in the crowd began to wonder what President Bush would do. As usual in such situations, self-proclaimed experts began to shout things. "We're at war now," said one "those bleeping Arabs," were common.

Hammerstein's words came back again: "You've got to be taught, before it's too late. Before you are six or seven or eight. To hate all the people your relatives hate." Hammerstein had it all figured out back in 1949. Maybe it's because he'd been through World War II and the Holocaust. Maybe. But then, hearing the sound of the collapsing World Trade Center towers and seeing the cloud of smoke down Broadway, perhaps there was one thing even more eloquent for the occasion:

Patinkin's shriek.


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