As you know, the timing of the Whatsonstage.com/Soho Theatre interactive play, officially launched with the publication of the opening scenes on this site on Tuesday 11 September, could not have been worse. Saddened and horrified by events in America, we were also sensitive to the fact that echoes of similar tragedy existed in our winning scenario, London Vanishes (working title).
Not wishing to upset or offend anyone, we contemplated calling off the project or restarting using a different storyline. However, we felt that the decision really should not be ours. By its very nature, the interactive play has been a collaboration all along - with the decisions made by you, the audience.
So, last week, we put the question to you - should we continue? In just a few days, over 500 of you logged on to register your opinion, with 60% voting that we should indeed carry on with the play that we'd already begun. Many of you also took the time to write in or post on the Whatsonstage.com discussion board with further thoughts. We have been deeply moved by the sentiments expressed - by New Yorkers, Americans, Britons and other theatregoers.
We are sharing excerpts from some of these messages below so that everyone may fully understand why we are taking the actions that we are taking.
To those who believed we should not continue, we'd like to assure you that we fully respect and sympathise with your point of view. However, we felt that it was our duty to accept the group decision. Some also suggested that we postpone the writing of the play and, while we also appreciate that desire, we are working to an exceedingly tight schedule that cannot be altered.
Please remember, where London Vanishes goes from here and how it ends is up to you. Some of you have already asked us to ensure that the resulting one-act play is a "life-affirming" work of art. We certainly aim to do so - but we need your help. Over the remaining weeks of the project, please do continue to read the instalments, send in your contributions and other thoughts, and vote on the direction the plot should take. (**You can vote on this week's plot suggestions by clicking here.)
And put the performance date in your diary now. The play will receive a professional rehearsed reading, directed by Jonathan Lloyd, at Soho Theatre on Monday, 12 November 2001 at 7.00pm (Box office: +44 020 7478 0100).
The completed work will be dedicated to those who lost their lives in the horrible attacks in New York and Washington. In addition, any profits from the performance will be donated to charities for the victims and their families and a collection will be organised at the theatre on the night.
Our thoughts and prayers are with you all.
I live in Manhattan. I was passing through the World Trade Center on my way to work at about 8:55 Tuesday morning. I didn't know about the first attack because I was in the subway, but I was directed to leave immediately. I was six blocks north when the second plane struck. To cut a long story short, I am fine, as are my family and my closest friends. I have two former colleagues who are among the missing, for whom I am grieving. But this has absolutely nothing to do with your theatre. And that is precisely the point. Your play is not offensive. Your story line was begun before this tragedy. If you want to honour us, throw in a sympathetic American character to play a minor role. Let him (or her) be brash and offensive and opinionated, but good-hearted and helpful and a true friend. In short, let him be a true New Yorker. And if he is a true New Yorker, he will triumph in the end, no matter how the story began.
Thank you for this opportunity to express my thoughts. We can't let these b*****ds disrupt our way of life for anything other than security concerns. Take the opportunity to send a message in the play. Don't weigh it down, perhaps the story can be the message.
I am an American still in shock that such evil has come to or shores. I exhort Soho to take the lead in London in sponsoring more uplifting, redemptive playwriting. I'm afraid the world is predominantly - and more apparently - now a struggle between good and evil. Most religions believe this to be so. In addition to reflecting our horrible world condition, theatre must now be the fulcrum that turns our sights to a more compassionate realm. Yes, by all means, allow Soho to produce a wide range of themes, but please strive to increase public awareness of the goodness we must all display. I want to thank your Prime Minister Tony Blair and the British people for coming out so quickly to denounce this evil done in America.
I do not think hiding one's head in the sand is a solution so I urge you to continue. More importantly, I thank you for your concern about this tragedy. New Yorkers are, as you know, a proud and resilient, even defiant group. We often feel isolated by many in the rest of the US as well as the world. Like London, we are a metropolis filled with financial, cultural and social amenities found in few other places. That is both our mutual strength and a source of envy. Your kind thoughts help unite those of us who believe the arts can both stimulate and heal. I have always appreciated Whatsonstage and do so even more now. I have planned a trip to London in November (I try to go annually) and hope neither my hesitation about, nor the world situation itself, will intervene.
As an American, I urge you to continue with the present story line. Do not allow these people to dictate to us in any way. We are 'carrying on' and holding the fort. Do not allow these people to alter our way of life in the slightest way!! We all have heavy hearts but we will survive and be stronger. Leave the play alone. It is one small victory for us!
Although we are all saddened and dismayed by the actions taken against the USA, I feel that it could almost be a tribute to the lost lives by continuing.
The less we allow such acts of horror to divert our intentions the better. I mourn with every person who is touched in any way by these deeds, and I will always be glad I celebrated New Year in New York before it was so scarred, physically and emotionally, but I also believe in the power of theatre as a medium for exploring ideas and, above all, considering their consequences. A rider in the publicity must ensure that people make an informed decision whether to go to the play, but I don't want terrorists to have more effect than they already have.
We are all very sad at what happened in America, but don't they say the show must go on?
I appreciate the concern and sensitivity of the editors of this site in holding a poll about continuing "London Vanishes". The attack on America is certainly a dastardly and despicable episode in world history. But I promise you that New York is not going to vanish. Don't let terrorists stop an interesting and creative project. Let's never give in to evil! Bless you all.
While no doubt the dreadful events from New York will probably affect how people choose to develop the story, to abandon this popular democratic choice of play would be to give way to the terrorists.
The unspeakable horrors of New York and Washington this week have to be set in a context a culture of violence. Perhaps now people will stop regarding disaster movies and violent effects in films as entertainment. But I fear that even now some sick producer is planning a film about these dreadful events. So yes - certainly "London Vanishes" should continue, but let's hope and pray people want it to develop as a life-affirming comedy - the potential is there. Let's get away from this sick pleasure in violent 'entertainment' once and for all.
We must go on, and this play is a great way of doing it. I think it could be quite cathartic for everyone. I have never felt so sad in my life.
The one thing that we need now is something to enjoy as everything else is now darkened in comparison to the terrible events of the last few days. We must not allow the evil that has done this to enjoy further victory in destroying more of what makes us good. Theatre reflects life, they say, and in this we must reflect the worries we have but also the strength that can be found even in the darkest times. The best way to do this is to carry on until we see the light at the end of the (euro) tunnel.
I agree that the play should continue but maybe with the alternative life-affirming ending. I also take this opportunity to extend my deepest condolences to the relatives and friends of those who've lost their lives in this absolutely appalling tragedy. I join with others in prayer for them and their loved ones.
In New York, the mayor is energetically encouraging everyone to resume "normal" life. He wants people to return to restaurants and theatres to demonstrate that the evil terrorists do not win any part of the war they are waging on the US. If New Yorkers are taking this attitude, then surely we should proceed in London and the UK? Let's just ensure that nothing is said that shows lack of sympathy and respect for those involved in the dreadful, dreadful events in the US.
(The tragedy) makes the theatre world seem just a little insignificant. But in some of the worst times in history, it has been artistic events that have helped make life tolerable.
Delay the play if you must - but I fear you may find you are delaying it for a very long time indeed. If the play is to be a serious and positive force for good, it is now that its voice needs to be heard. Let the rational and serious voice of theatre speak up for peace and love now, not be cowed into silence. I am delighted to see that the RSC are not withdrawing David Edgar's The Prisoners Dilemma. Now is the time to see this wonderful play and to think deeply about the complex problems it examines. Don't just feel, think!
The show must go on - the human spirit is a very powerful thing and will rally across the world, I'm sure.
I would argue that theatre and culture in general is precisely the place where imaginative
responses to tragedy can be made. For that reason, I would urge you to go on with the project.
To find out more about our interactive play, read the opening instalment and vote on this week's plot suggestions, click here.