How one production is leaving audiences “feeling a little lighter on their feet”

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Kaylah Joelle Baker

After soaring reviews in July 2019, Comedy Theatre’s most successful production Come From Away is returning on August 27 with an inspirational message.

Based on the days that followed 9/11, the true-story production follows how the small town of Gander rallied together to support up to 7000 air passengers grounded on their island.

At the time, the Newfoundland town was only made up of fewer than 10,000 people, but their ability to open their homes without question continues to have a lasting impact on how we each react to those in need around us.

Speaking with CBD News, two residents from the town – reporter and school media teacher Brian Mosher and town constable Oz Fudge – shared their message of hope in commemorating how their community stepped up.

“We would see the faces of the passengers come into different venues and they were scared and didn’t know what was happening. They didn’t know where they were and they had to watch their home under attack,” Mr Fudge said.

“There was no time to think about ourselves.”

Before the planes began circulating the town, a strong desire to do something was on the minds of many of the townsfolk who were already known for opening their doors to tourists and providing meals for families dealing with tragedy.

Upon the passengers landing, homes were opened, clothes were provided, venues were overloaded with a never-ending cycle of meals and 12 musical groups were recruited to rotate through town and help as a distraction.

All of this occurred without a cent ever changing hands.

“Those five days in Gander you wouldn’t believe the hospitality, the love and the hugs, all because we put ourselves way down on the list because someone else’s needs were more important,” Mr Mosher said.

“The food buffets were running around the clock at venues and more food kept on coming through the doors. The average weight gain was about five pounds a passenger because a big part of our culture is to feed you.”

Mr Mosher said a lack of toilet paper at the Gander Academy where many passengers stayed was also announced on the news and within just over an hour they had to announce again for town people to stop bringing toilet paper as “they filled one classroom with single rolls”.

Many similar stories are being told around the world through the production, and Oz and Brian proudly tour the cities sharing their message of how small acts of kindness can truly help when tragedy strikes.

While both represented in the play due to their impact over the five days the “come from aways” were in Gander, Brian’s experience is combined with that of another reporter Janice Goudie.

Ms Goudie had just arrived in the town for a new reporting job when the events of 9/11 occurred, and her experience is combined with Brian’s to make up the role of Janice Mosher.

 

As true heartfelt stories are depicted in the show, Brian and Oz said Melburnians “need to go” and that they should feel “very proud of the Australian actors” performing.

 

As a result of viewing Come From Away, many people who were dealing with survivors’ guilt have also seen their lives change after watching the production.

“There was one lady who worked in The Pentagon and as she was walking down the hallway to go into her office the plane hit, blowing her all the way down the hall. It was all dark, so she figured she had died, but then she was rescued,” Mr Fudge said.

“She found out all her friends in the office were killed and she had survivor’s guilt, not leaving her house for 15 years. But her daughter convinced her to see Come From Away saying it wasn’t about 9/11 but rather 9/12.”

“The play helped her realise she experienced the worst of humanity but now through the production she has seen that there are kind people out there and she can experience the best of humanity.”

As the message of kindness trumping conflict continues to remain one to be shared, Come From Away will be in Melbourne for a limited season before making its way to Sydney.

With tickets already on sale, Brian and Oz said it was one not to miss and audiences “faith in humanity will be reaffirmed as they leave wiping their eyes.” •

For tickets and more information: comefromaway.com.au

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