FULTON - CNY Arts Center has waited a long time to get back onstage with live theatre productions. The abbreviated 2021 season opens this Friday, Sept. 10, with the premiere of September Bears in recognition of the 20th anniversary of the terror attack on New York City. The production will be held on the Nancy D. Fox Stage at the Arts Center, located at 121 Cayuga St. in downtown Fulton.
The 90-minute play, written by Jeff Barker, tells one true story from the events that took place in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. School teacher Sue Lucarelli, whose school was in the shadows of the Towers, responded to the needs of her traumatized students by providing them with teddy bears to hold and hug when they were frightened. Word spread and the need to comfort all NYC school children became apparent. With the help of a local, small church and donations that poured in from across the country, more than 50,000 teddy bears were distributed to the children in crisis.
The story launched Hugs Across America, a foundation that continues to provide teddy bears for children in crisis across the country.
The play features a small cast of four women and three men playing a variety of roles including teachers, firefighters, a pastor and his wife who partnered with Lucarelli to gather and distribute the bears, and others, including the role of the children in the care of Mama Luc, as the teacher came to be known.
Veteran Arts Center actors include Jessie Essig, as Sue Lucarelli, Bev Poznoski, Kristin Dorofeev, Don Crowe and William White, and newcomers Bryan Dano and Amy Prieto. The play is directed by founder Nancy Fox for whom the stage was recently named during this year’s 10th anniversary celebration.
The multi-media production will also feature a few photos and videos utilizing the theatre’s new projection system. The Cinema Arts technology will be a staple in live theatre performances this season when appropriate. Projections will save on the cost of building expensive set pieces and lend a new vibrancy to the productions.
September Bears will open at 8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 10. The play will continue Saturday, Sept. 11 with a 3 p.m. matinee, and an 8 p.m. performance and close Sunday, Sept. 12 with a 3 p.m. matinee. Audience patrons are invited to bring a new teddy bear to the performance they attend. The collection of bears will be donated to local first responders and/or local child advocacy agencies for children in crisis.