The most common misconception about the Tony Award-winning play “Come From Away,” which arrives at The Hippodrome in Baltimore later this month, is that it’s a musical about 9-11, says actor Becky Gulsvig.
“It’s a 9-12 musical,” she says. “It’s about all the good that comes out of a tragedy.”
The play centers on the small town of Gander, Newfoundland, where dozens of flights were sent on 9-11 when the FAA grounded all air travel after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. Close to 7,000 passengers were stranded in Gander, and the play is based on these real-life people and the town residents who welcomed them.
Gulsvig plays the role of Captain Beverley Bass, an American Airlines pilot who was on a flight from Paris to Dallas-Fort Worth. Gulsvig saw the play before she was cast for the North American tour, “so I know how amazing it is and how it fills the audience. It filled me up,” she says, on a phone call from Pittsburgh, where the show is currently running. Reflexively, she says, she has put her hands on her chest as she shares this. “It sounds so cheesy, but I am so thankful for this show.”
Gulsvig has spent the past six months on the road with the production and will continue through September. To prepare to play Bass, she met with her in real life and watched footage of interviews with her. While the role is more of a representation of Bass and not a re-creation of her, Gulsvig says the character is “lovely, inspiring, extraordinary and strong.” And the two share commonalities.
“She’s a mom and I’m a mom,” Gulsvig says. “She travels for work, I travel for work. At the core, I can relate to her.”
Gulsvig’s home is in New Jersey. This is her fourth tour, and for past tours, she brought her daughter, who is now in second grade and home with Gulsvig’s husband. On days off, Gulsvig flies to see them, which is a “little extra crazy.”
Still she is grateful to be part of this play. In 2001, Gulsvig was in New York on 9-11 and says she knows there are still “open wounds” about that difficult day here on the East Coast. But she says the show has humorous and inspiring moments, and after months of performing in it, it “still floors” her.
“It’s so fulfilling. It’s everything I wanted theater to be and I thought it could be.”