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This article was prepared for the
September 26, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights
Between the Lines
In the dark days of World War II, Winston Churchill was
reportedly advised by one of his advisers to shut down all the
theaters, concert halls, and art galleries in London in order to save
money for the war effort. "Good God, man," the English prime minister
supposedly replied. "What the hell are we fighting for?"
In the days following the September 11 terrorist attacks, we at U.S. 1
continue with our coverage of the arts — the anecdote above is
plucked from a Simon Saltzman column that begins on page 26 of this
issue. But we also note some telling changes in our routines. Business
phone conversations, for example, may begin a little differently. Many
callers now replace the brisk "How are you" greeting with an
acknowledgement that sorrow may have touched the person at the other
end of the line. For the question, "Did anyone in your office lose
someone close?" the answer has been, all too frequently, "Yes."
One in every five people in New Jersey, according to a Gannett New
Jersey poll, has a relative or close friend who was a victim of the
terrorist attacks, and at least one third of New Jersey residents knew
someone who was killed, injured, or missing. The psychology experts
say it is part of the healing process to talk about our grief, yet we
are all searching for words.
Sometimes the right words come from the very young. At one of last
week’s funerals, a minister told about a little boy in Sunday school
who had the idea that in the aftermath of the tragedy everybody should
pray for God. The teacher gently suggested that he pray to God,
not for God. But the preschooler insisted, saying, "God is very
sad. We need to pray for him. We need to give him hugs."
In last week’s issue, producer/philanthropist Roger Berlind shared his
thoughts on how the loss of life would affect us in times to come,
saying, "it forces you to focus on what is really important, which is
family — and doing what you love." Theater, Berlind and others
believe, can play an important role in helping us find meanings.
U.S. 1’s drama critic Simon Saltzman underlines this in his essay on
page 26: "The theater and its makers have continued to meet the
challenge through the ages, giving people hope, joy, insight,
information, inspiration, and diversion. As a community, theater and
its makers have always responded through tragedies, wars, and economic
woes. It has always met the challenge with brave and sustaining words
as surely as have the fighters with their weapons."
In trying to come to terms with the tragedy, Saltzman offers a litany
prevail upon us and make us think we can survive alone, alone in
patches, alone in groups, alone in races, even alone in genders."
destroy the evil nations, but their evil. The sword conquered for
a while, but the spirit conquers forever." (Sholem Asch)
the other side of despair." (T.S. Eliot)
Drama, poetry, visual art, music — many would say that the arts offer
the only possible solace. Alone among the art objects at the World
Trade Center, a bronze figure sculpture created by Princeton sculptor
J. Seward Johnson has survived the tragedy. The piece depicts a
businessman looking into his briefcase. The title: "Double Check." It
has become a metaphor and a monument.
The role that the Twin Towers played as a New York monument was the
subject of Angus Kress Gillespie’s "Twin Towers: the Life of New York
City’s World Trade Center," published by Rutgers University Press.
U.S. 1 contributor Richard J. Skelly helped do the research for this
book, and an excerpt was printed here last week, September 19. On
September 24 the New York Times published Richard Bernstein’s
comparison between Gillespie’s book and Eric Darton’s "Divided We
Stand: a Biography of the World Trade Center." Bernstein generally
favors the Gillespie account, but says that both "give us a sense of
the historical richness and complexity of what we have lost."
This issue of U.S. 1 is being distributed on the eve of Yom Kippur.
Those observing this Jewish Day of Atonement are asked to forgive
those who have done evil to them, a difficult task at any time,
"At the end of the longest week of the year, I go to the theater.
There, at a performance of `Romeo and Juliet’ at McCarter Theater, I
suddenly have a clearer vision of where to seek insight. It would not
be from the media, but from the greatest writers of dramatic
literature. "When sorrows come, they come not as single spies, but
in battalions." (William Shakespeare).
America" is felt around the world. "The tears of the world are
a constant quality. For each one who begins to weep, somewhere else
another stops. The same is true of the laugh." (Samuel
"Good God, man," the English prime minister
is said to have replied. "What the hell are we fighting for?"
"I encourage everyone to continue in their art. Some people seem to
fear that to do so is trivial, misguided, escapist or offensive within
the present context. I assure you that it is not. The practice of
making theater this week has been a tenacious, reaffirming effort.
Watching theater last night was a heartening, precious experience." As
always, I am guided and supported by the words of dramatists.
— Simon Saltzman
We continue to look to the old and the new plays and playwrights for
emotional and intellectual support."
, the way in which they were first loved by critics and then hated by
them, even as the buildings won acceptance by ordinary people."
of his death, no man can be sure of his courage." (Jean
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