“UNRESTRAINED REFLECTIONS ON SEPTEMBER 11TH”
Barbara Ligeti, Lily Tomlin, Jane Wagner
David Worby, Stephen Hansen, C. Kim McCarthy
Conceived, Written & Performed by RENO
Reviewed April, 2002, during the run at NYC’s The Zipper
NY, New York. September 11, 2001. The Financial District. 8:45 AM.
In An Instant, Everything Changed.
Enter Reno, Witness to the Ensuing Chaos Below Canal Street.
It was an ordinary Tuesday, or so I thought. I never thought much about my train being delayed at 34 St. Hell, as usual, I was running a bit late for my 9 AM start time. I must have gotten on the subway at just around 8:45 AM.
Reno, asleep at home within blocks of what we now designate Ground Zero, was wakened by the first crash. The ensuing hours, as well as the months of reflection since, are the basis for her REBEL WITHOUT A PAUSE.
Reno began this piece as a cathartic work-in-progress in October. It has since evolved into a cogent work that is a hybrid performance piece and memory play. I say this because, unlike the work of most performance artists, the subject of this specific narrative involves an event in our collective histories. It is more than a projection of the commonalities of the human condition. It is more than commiseration. It is, in Reno’s own, unlikely way, a celebration of the spirit of who we are. It is a spirit that has not been broken.
As I expected, Reno is political. Refreshingly, this continues to be the case. For instance, she questions the notion of President Bush “rising to the occasion” by offering her observation: “I think the occasion happened, and he was there.” She makes no small mention of his lack of worldliness, or of the politically narrow focus of his cabinet. Many are thinking it, still, but few speak it. So, bravo for bravery and brevity.
To the real subject at hand, Reno speaks to issues, details if you will, that were generally lost in the overwhelming commotion of 9/11/01. She recounts the phone calls she received, the indecision in the neighborhood, the inability to get money from the local branch of the bank after the ATM’s were emptied, the fear felt by strangers when offered help by neighborhood folk, and the antithetical reaction of relative strangers embracing for the love of a familiar face. She speaks to the early hopes that what she witnessed was a mere mistake, as if David Copperfield was performing magic and the Towers, which she admits she always had considered ugly, would simply reappear.
Each of us will recognize a different memory in Reno’s. For me, it is the loss of a landmark in my field of vision every time I walk toward the point that once was the World Trade Center. For me, it is those horrible hours when we did not know what the hell was going on, and regardless of what services were out, we had no idea if we would be safer heading home or staying put. For me, it is watching the first tower fall, live. For me...
Reno’s dialogue probably hints at the substance of many who happened to be near the hub on that horrific day. She recounts the noise, the rumors, the paranoia, lack of guidance, fear, helplessness, and general confusion that resonate to this not-so-distant seven months later. Terrible times, and few solutions. The wonderful thing is that, in the most upbeat sort of hindsight, Reno finds the humor in the situation. She recalls the State Police, standing on Canal Street, who could not direct anyone to Canal Street. She is disappointed by the failures of the Emergency Broadcast System, which provide no guidance. She tells of the rumors, set off by police tape, that ran rampant. One, that macrobiotic restaurant, Souen, generally frequented by the mellowest of souls, had become some sort of Sixth Avenue terrorist base camp. Alas, the police tape was to protect Guiliani.
REBEL WITHOUT A PAUSE is exactly what you would expect it to be. If you are lucky, you will find something familiar to laugh about. However, if, like Reno, you find yourself tearing up at the mere suggestion of “God Bless America,” well, welcome to NYC, 2002.
- Kessa De Santis -
Reno has not slowed down! After winning critical praise for her stage show, not to mention a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Solo Performance, she has moved on to yet another medium.
The film version of RENO: REBEL WITHOUT A PAUSE, directed by Nancy Savoca, debuted at the 2002 Toronto Film Festival in September. The film was produced by Rich Guay and Exile Productions.