Fall play: ‘110 Stories’

Students share 9/11 survivors’ stories of the attack


Thalia Birdas ‘25

Students rehearse a scene in Act 2 of 110 Stories, which premieres Friday night.

Thalia Birdas ‘25, Staff Writer

This year’s fall play, “110 Stories,” is made up of monologues based on the stories of real people who survived the attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 – first responders, volunteers, area residents, and people who worked in the World Trade Center towers.

The emotional monologues of this story could prove to be difficult for students who were not alive during the events they are describing.  However, Mr. Tobin Strader, who is overseeing the play, is confident his students will be able to pull it off.

“It’s just a matter of… doing their research and learning more about the people that they are portraying because they’re real people,” Strader said. 

Student director and senior Bea Smith says the actors may feel a lot of pressure to do their characters justice because they are portraying real people who were present at such an impactful and devastating event. Smith says that this play has involved more preparation than previous ones as the actors learn about their characters and the emotion they need to portray.

Will LaMaster, a junior who plays an ironworker from New Jersey,  described it as “recreating feelings that we’ve never had on an event that everyone in the audience is going to be familiar with,” summing the experience up with a metaphor of “trying to slip into those shoes having never worn them.”

Another challenge is sheer memorization. Strader says that once everything is memorized, the actors will be able to put their own spin on the characters. The students also have to “be able to give the audience permission to find the humor.”

Walking into a play about 9/11, audience members expect it to be all sad and serious, Strader says, but the play is not all doom and gloom, which may present a challenge for the actors because “the audience isn’t going to be ready to laugh.”

However, Smith shares that during rehearsals, they have “been able to have fun with it, while also maintaining the seriousness that we needed.”

Strader chose to produce “110 Stories” because he felt that it was important to remember such a devastating and important event in our country’s history on its 20th anniversary. 

The play conveys the importance of togetherness and the importance of remembering unprecedented events such as 9/11. It features multiple viewpoints that tell stories without placing blame. Strader says this apolitical view of the attacks will let the audience leave with a message of resilience. 

LaMaster says he hopes the audience will leave with a deeper understanding of the event, especially after his eye-opening experience of reading the script and researching for the play. He also wants people to gain a sense of “compassion as humans.”

In 2020, COVID-19 caused the school to shut down six days before the opening night of the musical, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat. The school was still able to do a socially distant masked version of “12 Angry Jurors” the next year,  but COVID protocols made it a much different experience from previous years. 

As Strader prepares to produce “110 Stories,” he encourages his students to stay healthy. He describes it as “a level of precaution that I had never had to deal with before,” but he also says it has become second nature.

This year, Strader, along with LaMaster, is excited to put on a play with fewer restrictions. He is especially looking forward to being able to use more student actors and have a larger audience. 

LaMaster, who is doing his third performance at Brebeuf, and Smith, who has been participating in theatre at Brebeuf since her freshman year, are both excited to see how the audience reacts to the play and how the play comes together as a whole. 

Strader reached out to the playwright, Sarah Tuft, and was able to get in touch with Michelle Williams-Vaden, who spoke at the convocation on Sept. 10.

He describes Williams-Vaden’s visit as “something that really would only happen at Brebeuf,” and he said her story leaves the school with a meaningful message of coming back from tragedy and living a life of service.

This production features 35 students, including actors, stage crew, and ushers. Strader said the students are evenly spread between grades, but there are more freshmen than usual.

A lot of people are doing their first play, which Strader says is exciting. He enjoys when the older students are doing it for the first time because “they either didn’t have the time or they didn’t have the desire or they didn’t know they could.”

“110 Stories” will open in the Brebeuf Auditorium at 7 p.m. on October 1st, and have performances at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on October 2nd. Tickets can be found on the Brebeuf website, selling at $7 for students and $12 for adults.