'Come from Away' returns to San Diego
"Come From Away," a show that originated at La Jolla Playhouse in 2015, looks to the true story of the small Newfoundland town that welcomed travelers stranded after 9/11. The show returns to San Diego for its national tour debut at the Civic Theatre running Tuesday through Sunday. Tickets and information are available through Broadway San Diego.
La Jolla Playhouse has a mission statement emblazoned on its walls that says it wants to create, “A safe harbor for the unsafe and surprising.” For 15 years Artistic Director Christopher Ashley has been pursuing that mission by providing a safe harbor for new works.
"There's real pride in being a place where new stories get made," Ashley said. "I think artists like to bring their plays to the Playhouse because the audience is super smart and very experienced and watching new work. And if you listen to the the conversations in the lobby and in the aisles, you get some really good clues to how your rewrite should go."
When "Come From Away" crossed his desk seven years ago, Ashley was immediately attracted to its real life story of a town providing a safe harbor to stranded travelers.
"The very first time I read it, I thought, 'wow, I don't know that I've ever read a story about the importance of taking care of each other and kindness and generosity.' And that seemed to me like such a great thing to put out there in the world," Ashley said. "And when I first listened to it I really fell in love with the music. It's like the kind of music you'd hear from a bar band in Newfoundland. Very Celtic, very rock driven. So I fell in love with the music and I fell in love with the why tell this story."
The show went to Broadway and has traveled around the globe. It is set during the week after 9/11 when 38 planes had to land at a Newfoundland airport and the town of Gander welcomed the stranded passengers with open arms. It’s a story that feels right for welcoming audiences back to live theater.
"I just think people are back in the theater with so much enthusiasm and it's like this thing that they are finally able to reconnect with sitting in the audience and watching live theater," Ashley said. "Everybody has gone through this kind of extraordinary, unparalleled two years of so many difficult things happening in this country and around the world, so it's amazing to watch people bond together and go, 'yeah, it's possible to really behave well and be amazing hosts and take the best kind of care of each other.' I keep being so happy that we can send that story out into the world."
But "Come From Away" does not ignore darker themes.
"One woman is is trying to get news of her son, who is a firefighter, and she knows that he had gone into the World Trade Center," Ashley said. "There's another character who's Muslim and is kind of grappling with the beginnings of racial profiling. So there's all kinds of difficulties that these characters face. But the the generosity of the people, all of Newfoundland and of the people of Gander, is remarkable."
The national touring company of "Come From Away" will present the show this Tuesday through Sunday at the Civic Theater.