Some art is timeless, while other pieces purposefully take us back to a specific time and place.
The stage production of Sarah Tuft’s 110 Stories, an emotional tribute to the heroes of 9/11 as well the city that stood tall, falls firmly in the latter category.
The play was recently staged in Los Angeles starring Golden Globe nominee Diane Venora, Ernie Hudson, Jon Heder, SAG nominee Stelio Savante, Nicki Micheaux, Steven Bauer, Dash Mihok, Benito Martinez, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Ethan Kogan and Jessica Silvetti.
Savante, who first joined the production in 2001 and now is its producer and co-star, shared his connection to the play and the Big Apple with Breitbart News.
Breitbart News: Tell me how you first got involved with 110 Stories — did you have any trepidation initially about tackling such an emotional project with real-world implications?
Stelio Savante: I auditioned for it in 2001. It was supposed to be an all-celebrity cast but I already had many years of NY Off-Broadway credits behind me, so Sarah auditioned me, I nailed it and she offered me the role. No… in fact I was more drawn to the material. New York was my home for 15 years and I was very close to the World Trade Center when the first plane hit, so the material affected me personally.
Breitbart News: How has the production evolved over time … have the years enabled you to tweak elements and improve them?
Savante: The play has been re-edited many times, and certain characters have become more prominent. My director Rudolf Buitendach added audio/lighting cues that gave the reading new life last week. It’s a very raw play in terms of the character’s responses to 9/11. One doesn’t want to lose that by adding too many bells and whistles, because nothing is stronger than an audience’s imagination. The characters speak directly to the audience, so you owe it to them to be as pure as possible.
Breitbart News: How have your fellow performers treated the material? Are there discussions behind the scenes about their connections and stories pertaining to 9/11?
Savante: Our casts have volunteered their time as the play has always been performed for charity. So we’re talking a very respectful commitment to the material. With actors who are current or former New Yorkers (and most all of the characters are New Yorkers) there has been a far stronger connection. I worked with my casting directors to cast as authentically as possible. Unfortunately that means a lot of actor friends take it personally when they aren’t cast but there are only so many characters. Yes, its inevitable that there are conversations about personal connections to the tragedy, that’s why a lot of actors say yes in the first place. They have their own stories and memories of the event.
Breitbart News: Talk about Operation Gratitude–how is it different than other military charities, and do you have an anecdote about the fine work they do?
Savante: Having volunteered and served on their assembly lines many times over the years, I’vefound what distinguishes them the most: is that they are completely apolitical. One common purpose and one collective effort by people of different political and cultural affiliation. Even the occasional nutty actors who are there because they think it’s cool or think it will get them press. Carolyn Blashek has devoted her life to this, and it has been a privilege to give her charity this donation. She has a servant’s heart and I find that to be encouraging, inspirational and felt it was time that someone acknowledged her. The biggest gift has been hearing from soldiers that have received these care packages and how much it meant to them.
Breitbart News: “Never forget” is a motto often applied to that awful September day. How can 110 Stories help make that a reality? Do you see the show going on indefinitely?
Savante: 110 Stories ensures that we never forget. It always has, that goes without say. And it makes me sad that our younger generations literally have no clue what happened. But the play also sheds light on those who haven’t necessarily been labeled heroes by the media. Homeless people, photographers, K-9 handlers, iron workers, nurses and many others who were greatly affected by this tragedy. I do have an agreement with the writer and future plans for the play are already in the works.
Photo credits: Bernard Falkin