The Times West Virginian

October 31, 2013

‘Freedom Tower’ premiere tonight

By Kaylyn Christopher
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — The curtains will open at 8 p.m. today at the Monongalia Arts Center in Morgantown for the world premiere of Sam Graber’s “Freedom Tower,” a play that focuses on the effects that the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks continue to have on our country more than 12 years later.

“It’s simply meant to be thought-provoking,” director Roger Banks said. “It’s a reexamination of the various reactions that I think many of us have remaining after 9/11.”

“Freedom Tower” is produced by the Monongalia Arts Center in cooperation with Seven Stories Theatre Co., and in addition to today, showings are also scheduled for Friday and Saturday at MAC’s Tanner Theatre.

According to Banks, “Freedom Tower” is a character-driven play that is centered around the construction of the new One World Trade Center. The characters come from different religious and ethnic backgrounds, and Banks said their interactions are intended to reflect the cultural tensions that exist in today’s society.

“It gives the audience an opportunity to examine their reactions through the eyes of the characters,” Banks said. “I encourage people to come out and reexamine their feelings about 9/11 and compare those reactions with the characters they see on stage and try to identify who they connect with the most.”

Graber said the iron workers who are constructing the new World Trade Center are essential to the theme of the play.

“‘Freedom Tower’ began when I stood inside the skyscraper under construction. This play is for everyone who wonders how the iron workers do that they do, all while questioning the tenuous balance of American values against hatred for those who try to kill us,” Graber said in a press release. “It’s a straightforward power story asking whether a new building can help us move on.” 

Banks said the cast spent much of their time exploring and researching the various aspects of the iron worker culture in order to accurately portray their roles.

“Iron workers are men who get impossible jobs done,” Banks said in a press release. “Coal miners, like my father, are the same. These men have very strong and deep feelings toward duty and county. 9/11 was a challenge to these feelings and values. I remember heated and difficult conversations I had with my father after 9/11. This play will offer the audience an opportunity to have a similar conversation with themselves.”

While moments of tension certainly exist throughout the play, Banks said he thinks audience members will walk away from the show with a sense of positivity.

“There’s a very uplifting ending even through a tragic occurrence,” Banks said. “It really gives us the hope that sometimes I think we’re missing in society.” 

Immediately following Friday’s performance, artistic director Joey Madia said audience members are encouraged to attend a “talk-back” session.

“It’s an opportunity for us to talk about not only the structure of the play but also talk about the characters and the larger themes,” Madia said.

Madia said members of the MAC and Seven Stories Theater Co. are looking forward to tonight’s premiere.

“This is our most ambitious project yet,” Madia said. “Technically and subject-wise, this represents a new level for us, so everybody its extremely excited. Everybody worked very hard.”

According to Banks, “Freedom Tower” is considered an adult-themed show due to language. Admission to the show is $15, and tickets can be purchased online at www.monartscenter.com/shop, by calling 304-292-3325 or at the MAC lobby desk.

Email Kaylyn Christopher at kchristopher@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter@KChristopherTWV.