The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York



Voices of the ‘9/11 Generation’

Playwright John MacDonald

There are many ways to talk about the events of Sept. 11, 2001 — and certainly the discussion will continue this weekend when the event’s 10th anniversary is observed in New York City and around the world.

Individuals who were adults at the time the terrorism happened may have had a more mature perspective on the event than their children were able to, but what did youngsters and adolescents take away from it?

John MacDonald, who grew up in Bedford and was attending Fox Lane Middle School on that fateful day, has written a play, “Dust,” in part to give voice to the feelings of the so-called 9/11 Generation. He says those individuals who, born around 1987, were between 11 and 14 years of age in 2001 and “caught in the middle between childhood and adolescence.”

A 2006 graduate of Fox Lane High School, Mr. MacDonald is an English major at Hunter College in Manhattan. Since 2008 in his spare time, whatever there is of it, he has run a production company, Tenement Street Workshop Ltd., which is producing “Dust” as part of the New Performance Series at Incubator Arts Project beginning next Friday, Sept. 16, and running through Sept. 24.

‘“Dust”’ is meant not only to give voice to the 9/11 Generation but also to spark a conversation across generational divides.’

The play takes place at St. Mark’s Church, 131 East 10th Street at Second Avenue in Manhattan. General admission is $18 (students $14), with cash-only admission at the door. Tickets may be purchased in advance at or by calling TheatreMania at 212-352-3101.

“Dust” concerns six abandoned children and young adults who, in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy, must navigate their way through the rubble and dust in order to decipher their pasts and reveal their futures.

“‘Dust’ is meant not only to give voice to the 9/11 Generation but also to spark a conversation across generational divides about the immediate and long-term effects of terrorism and tragedy,” Mr. MacDonald said. “It is important to hear the voices that will soon have to clean this mess up.”

The play’s beginnings came from a conversation he and others in his production company had about their experiences on 9/11. “After that, I went down to visit the World Trade Center site in 2009 and saw some protestors on the street who, I thought, were not really respecting the day,” he said. “They were protesting the mosque proposed to be built near the trade center site, and I thought that was not consistent with what I thought the day meant to those who lost loved ones or were there during the attacks. It saddened me.”

The play, he said, is a “contemplation of our values, morphing from where our generation came from and where we see ourselves in relation to the event.”

It is a follow-up to the play “Rubble,” written in 2008 by Rebecca Berkman-Rivera, one of his company members, about two children living in the rubble pile of 9/11.

“Our company produced that play twice, and during that process I always loved the text and thought it was such a brilliant piece,” Mr. MacDonald said. “I wanted to write a response to that play and pay homage, take the kids out of the rubble pile and take them to a concrete environment to have more open discussion.”

As with other plays Mr. MacDonald has written, “Dust” started with a couple of lines of dialogue “floating around” in his mind. He was thinking inwardly about what he would have said to the protestors had he possessed the courage at the time to speak up to them out loud. “Fear is a great medium,” he said. “It allows for a lot of dialogue, getting one’s voice out there in a way you really can’t do in any other medium.”

The main characters in “Dust” have found a post-9/11 community of sorts and are living in an abandoned courthouse in Lower Manhattan. “They have lost their memories about what has happened to them, and they’re digging through piles of rubble trying to remember about their backgrounds,” Mr. MacDonald said. “The piece is avant garde in the sense that it doesn’t deal with concrete examples of reality, time and space. They’re isolated from the world, and for the purposes of the text they have to figure everything out for themselves.”

Audience members will have the opportunity learn more about the characters after the play, when they can go onstage and peer into characters’ “rooms.”

“It’s tough to tell deep secrets about characters in a play,” Mr. MacDonald said. “I know as an audience member I always want to see and learn more. Playwrights are trying to explore new ways of audience participation; that’s how we decided to include the audience onstage after the play ends.”

Mr. MacDonald said that from his perspective, 9/11 has always been something that was taboo, at least among people of his generation.

“‘Dust’ is not a political statement,” he said. “There are no strong points about politics or our feelings. But it does so indirectly, allowing the audience members viewing it to imprint their own take and experience on the characters we’re creating, Our goal is to open the discussion up further without so much rhetoric or so many sound bites.”

Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the The Record-Review. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.


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