Arts and Entertainment

‘The Guys’ honors sacrifice of first responders in Island Theatre reading

In “The Guys,” Ann Wilkinson Ellis (left) plays the editor who helps a fire chief, played by John Kenyon Ellis (right), come to terms with losing eight men in his command on 9-11.  - Steve Stolee/Courtesy Photos
In “The Guys,” Ann Wilkinson Ellis (left) plays the editor who helps a fire chief, played by John Kenyon Ellis (right), come to terms with losing eight men in his command on 9-11.
— image credit: Steve Stolee/Courtesy Photos

Every life must come to an end. We know that. Intellectually. And while death is the inevitable outcome of being born to this shared experience, as a species we resist it fiercely.

The term tragedy, in reference to death, enters in when unusual circumstances challenge our logic, our sense of fairness. Death that doesn’t make sense leaves us not with grief, but despair.

In “The Guys,” a play written following 9-11, Nick, a fire chief with the NYFD, has only days to make some kind of sense of the day’s unfathomable events, having lost eight of the men in his command.

Charged with writing their eulogies Nick, played by John Kenyon Ellis, must find a semblance of meaning to bring comfort to those left behind, himself included. A daunting task given that words are the only tools with which to accomplish it.

“I need a writer,” he says.

The unusual circumstances that lead to him finding that writer add a life-affirming counterpoint to the situation.

Joan, the writer who comes to Nick’s aid, acknowledges the unlikeliness of the two strangers meeting.

“You couldn’t create another sequence of events that would connect us,” she said.

In this case, art imitates life. Ann Wilkinson Ellis, who plays Joan, worked with John briefly years ago on a BPA Radio Show production of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” After the show, they went about their lives, unaware that they would meet years later and fall in love.

“The Guys” is the first theater work they’ve done together since getting married last spring.

Another thread that runs parallel is Ann’s “New York chapter.” Growing up on Bainbridge Island, she went to New York City to study theater and music. She moved back to the West Coast in 2000, just before 9-11.

John, while in New York last week, visited one of the fire stations as research for his part. A wall-length memorial to the 10 guys the station lost on 9-11, and its motto, “Lest we ever forget,” struck a chord.

And though John is probably known more for his comedic turns on Bainbridge stages, he shares the role first portrayed by another funny man, Bill Murray.

“Comedy and tragedy are very close. They’re kindred souls,” John said. The play weaves bits of levity into the fabric.

“It’s not maudlin,” Anne said of the play, which is based on a true story. “It’s powerful, but very tender and also inspiring. Your heart will be touched, but it gives you something, too. It doesn’t leave you in a hole.”

Courage, this time by playwright Nelson, saves us.

The play shares the theme of heroic efforts with “The Big Burn,” the book selected by Kitsap Regional Library as its “One Book, One Community” selection for 2011. Seventy-eight firefighters lost their lives fighting the Big Burn and trying to protect the towns in its path.

Starting with this weekend’s performance at the Bainbridge Library, the play, directed by Kate Carruthers, will be read at libraries throughout Kitsap County, with local firefighters invited to attend.

The run will wrap up with a final performance Oct. 29, at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art.



“The Guys,” a play reading presented by Island Theatre and directed by Kate Carruthers will be:

Bainbridge Island Branch – Oct. 15-16 7:30 p.m.

Kingston Branch – Oct. 18, 6:30 p.m.

Sylvan Way Branch – Oct. 19, 6:30 p.m.

Poulsbo Branch – Oct. 21, 7 p.m.

Manchester Branch – October 22, 1 p.m.

Port Orchard Branch Oct. 22, 6 p.m.

Silverdale Branch  – Oct. 25, 6 p.m.

Little Boston Branch Oct. 27, 2 p.m.

Bremerton Branch – Oct. 27, 6:30 p.m.

Bainbridge Island Museum of Art – Oct. 29, 7:30 p.m. 100 Ravine Lane (NW  Corner of Highway 305 and Winslow Way)



Other "One Book, One Community" events

“The Big Burn” is the story of the 1910 wildfire that destroyed nearly 3 million acres in Idaho, Montana, and Northeastern Washington, and led to the formation of a strong National Forest Service tasked with protecting the nation’s public lands. Written by Timothy Egan, who made a recent appearance at the North Kitsap Community Auditorium Oct. 11, the book was selected by the Kitsap Regional Library as its “One Book One Community” read for 2011.

KRL will be holding book discussion groups at all nine branch libraries to talk about the selected book. The discussions of “The Big Burn” on Bainbridge Island are at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18 at the Senior Community Center and at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 26 at the Bainbridge Library.

“The Greatest Good:

Whether it is the protection of endangered species or meeting the need of a growing public, the fate of public lands is constantly challenged. “The Greatest Good: A U.S. Forest Service Centennial Film,” a 2005 documentary on the history of the U.S. Forest Service, takes viewers on the journey from the “wise use” of resources to the idea of a “land ethic.” You can view the film online or watch it at 7 p.m. Oct. 24 at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art. A discussion will follow the viewing of the film.


Pacific Northwest Logging Camp Folksongs and Stories

Folksinger Bob Nelson of the Pacific Northwest Folklore Society and KRL storytellers provide family entertainment featuring songs and stories of and from old logging camps. The free event, co-sponsored by the Bainbridge Island Metro Park & Recreation District, is at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30 at Island Center Hall, Fletcher Bay Rd.

The purpose of One Book, One Community, celebrated during October -- the month of the book -- is to encourage the community to share the experience of reading a single book and to discuss the issues raised by the author.

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