Everyone has a September 11 story -- whether it's an eerie coincidence, a "where I was when I found out," or a "my neighbor was there" -- but perhaps none can tell the story of that fateful day quite like someone who was in Manhattan when the Twin Towers collapsed. Steven Fetter, who grew up and worked in the city, has a story like that.
Or maybe, like everyone else, Steven Fetter has a life story. And it just happens to directly intersect with New York City on September 11. Like everyone else, he encountered coincidences and made choices that led him down certain roads in his career and family life. To Fetter, those roads seemed significant enough to build a show around. The result is "A Blue Sky Like No Other," an hour-long, one-man show that feels a bit like listening to the uncle who consistently recounts stories of the glory days (but you like him and don't want to offend him, so you politely listen).
Fetter advertises the show as "a tribute to the members of the New York City Fire Department who sacrificed their lives to save the lives of others on that tragic day," but the first 45 minutes are really about his own life leading up to that day. No, he wasn't a firefighter. No, there's not a whole lot about firefighters in the show until the last 10 minutes when he mentions the fire department he passed each day (FDNY Engine 4, Ladder 15) and cycles through a few photos of and facts about those who died. At the end of the show, there's a slide of all the firefighter victims set to bagpipes playing "Amazing Grace." While the show has a few worthy nuggets, it could be sharpened a bit so it's more like the advertised blurb suggests (more tribute, less memoir).
"A Blue Sky Like No Other" plays again Tuesday, September 20, at RAPA @ SOTA: Ensemble Theatre. 6:30 p.m. $10. Appropriate for ages 13 and older.
If anyone needs further proof that there is talent within Rochester's theater circles, the proof is waiting each year at The 24-Hour Plays, which took place Monday night at Writers & Books. Beginning Sunday night at 8 p.m., 34 actors, writers, and directors spent 24 hours creating six short pieces (roughly 10 minutes each) for sold-out audiences to watch at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. the next day. Each actor shows up with one prop, which is meant to prompt the playwrights to begin working on a script. Then: write, cast, direct, memorize, and perform.
Included were standout scripts penned by Spencer Christiano (the witty "Generation Gap"), Megan Mack (a sobering "Remedy"), and Lawrence A. Jones (the relatable "Fruit Flies Like a Banana"). Blackfriars' Danny Hoskins directed a strong ensemble consisting of Allison Roberts, Ruth Bellavia, and Rick Staropoli in Christiano's show; while director Jack Simel worked with comedic ensemble Willis Ajamu Brooks, Sara BickweatPenner, Dave Jason Kyle, and Kenya Malcolm.
Jodi Beckwith (who participated in the shows with her son and daughter) was unnerving as a regretful mother in Mack's "Remedy," and Frieda Jones provided colorful expressions in Maria Brandt's "The Shadow." Of course, not everything created in 24 hours will be a hit, but the amount of talent displayed in this short time is impressive. Check out the recap on Twitter and Instagram: @WritersAndBooks, #24HrPlays.