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Courtesy Ryan Frost
Ryan Frost (in the middle with a backwards baseball cap) posed for this picture with friends a couple of weeks after the 9/11 attacks. He says, "It was my first group of friends in college ... and it stayed that way for me."
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At the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Ryan Frost was just three weeks into his freshman year at the University of Richmond. In the aftermath, he formed a bond with a circle of friends that he’s kept ever since. Now a Los Angeles-based writer and director, Frost was inspired to write a play after attending a friend's wedding in late 2013. He says, “I had this random thought: Would I be friends with this person if it wasn’t for 9/11?”
Frost approached Virginia Repertory Theatre about working with him on his script, and he says the theater company decided to stage a production as a commemorative event. He partnered with Adam Ferguson, a fellow UR alumnus who works with Virginia Rep, to produce the resulting one-act play, September 12th on Wednesday and Thursday (Sept. 10 and 11), at 7 p.m. at the Children's Theatre at Willow Lawn.
September 12th focuses on a group of UR students who spend the night of 9/11 talking and trying to cope with the national tragedy. Frost says he believes that other 9/11 narratives tend to focus more on “the hero story,” or on the aftermath of the attacks, such as how air travel became more strictly regulated. “But I think there was a lot of other stuff going on, too. My interest was telling it from the narrative of people who weren’t involved ... for me, [9/11] was the day that whole illusion of safety I’d been living under disappeared.”
Frost saw the first plane hit the North Tower on the morning news, but he assumed it was an accident. “I was walking to class later and everyone was talking about the World Trade Center being hit, and I was like, ‘Oh, I saw that,’ ” referring to the first plane crashing into the North Tower, “and they said ‘No, the other one,’ and then you knew it wasn't just an accident.”
The play features current students from the University of Richmond's Department of Theater and Dance as well as theater professionals. Frost says he wanted to work with UR students not only out of affection for his alma mater, but because college-age people now may not have grasped the full impact of the attacks when they happened, being elementary school-age at the time. Frost took on a teacher's role with the actors, while also connecting as a fellow Richmond Spider. “We have a shared dynamic in that we went to the same university, but at the same time I can be like ‘This is what it was like growing up in the ‘90s.’ ” He hopes that both the cast and the audience walk away from September 12th with a deeper understanding of what it was like growing up in Richmond after 9/11.
He also hopes to bring back memories of a time when the American public bonded together and people were kinder in general. After the free performance, audience members are invited to stay for a Q&A talkback session with Frost and three UR professors — Monika Seibert from the English department, history chairman emeritus John L. Gordon Jr. and Jennifer Nourse, chair of the department of sociology and anthropology.
For more information, call 783-1688, ext. 1253. RSVP to: email@example.com.