The numbers tell the story of how much effort Finish Line co-creators Joey Frangieh and Lisa Rafferty put into getting their documentary play to the stage. When the Boston Theater Company production premieres on March 15 at the Boch Shubert Theatre, it will be the fruit of nearly three years of work and 94 interviews with locals affected by the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. Their stories are brought to life by 12 actors portraying 16 characters in a 90-minute play that’s had seven workshops and contributions from more than 100 collaborators along the way. But Frangieh, Finish Line’s director, says the show isn’t about the numbers. It’s about the words.A local theater company takes its time with a marathon play.
“We have firsthand accounts from real people, whose real stories from their words are in our show, word for word,” Frangieh says. “Of the 94 people, every single person has a story to tell. … We tried it so many different ways, and we settled on the 16 that best give an arc and showcased different people’s voices and experiences. Even though only 16 are depicted in the show, all 94 have impacted it.”
The story begins at the start of the 2013 race and ends with the 2014 marathon, with no mention of the bombers and no recounting of the Watertown drama. The 16 characters represent an eclectic group that includes runners, doctors, law enforcement officers, journalists and survivors. “We’re not trying to make them look like the real person. We’re sort of honoring their words rather than imitating them. We project their real names before each section,” Frangieh explains. “We believe that documentary theater is the only way to tell these types of stories. We didn’t sit down and make up the stakes. We didn’t make up heroes. We didn’t make up anything. We talked to real people who had real experiences, and we put their exact words on the stage.” Here’s a small sampling of those exact words pulled from the Finish Line script, every last “um” retained.
Officer Franklin: “We’ve always read and heard in the news about bombings overseas, London, Europe, the Middle East. Never thinking that it could happen here in the homeland. But after what happened on 9/11 and Marathon Monday it makes you realize that there are in fact radical groups here in the U.S. and the likelihood of something happening again is imminent and real…and it makes you appreciate life every day.”
Survivor Carol Downing: “We’re moving forward, but it’s been…tough. Um. I think we’re more compassionate since Boston. And um… just paying it forward when we can.”
Survivor Erika Brannock: “It’s incredible how one event can…change your life for the better, even though it’s a tragedy. Um, and bring so much good into your life. Cause I think sometimes people forget that, that there can be good that comes out of tragedy.”
News anchor Maria Stephanos: “I’m a girl who grew up here. I have run that Boston Marathon. I have crossed that finish line. I have covered that marathon since I was a radio reporter in my 20s. That is our marathon. Those are our moments right there that define this great city. And they were changed that day. It was all changed that day. From the darkness… comes so much light. I think it made us stronger as a city.”
Runner Richard Webster: “Love is not a feeling. Love is an action. The response of…so many people to say…to push back against evil. And…our world needs a lot of that.”
Finish Line: A Documentary Play About the 2013 Boston Marathon, March 15-26 at the Boch Shubert Theatre
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