New York playwright Leslie Bramm remembers looking at the World Trade Center from just hundreds of yards away on 9/11 and seeing objects falling from windows.
"The guy standing next to me asked why they were throwing furniture out the windows, and I told him, 'It's not furniture, it's people.'"
That was one image that stuck with him. Another was a photograph from that day, proof of what Bramm for a while believed was only an urban legend: a couple holding hands as they jumped.
So when off-off-Broadway theater group The Present Company asked Bramm to write a response piece to the tragedy, he created Lovers Leapt. His director in New York City was Scott RC Levy.
Now performing arts director at the Fine Arts Center Theatre Company, Levy was walking through the FAC museum when Bramm's play suddenly popped into his head. A glance at Joellyn Duesberry's World Trade Center paintings brought Bramm's "short jewel of a piece" to mind, and the idea of performing the play in front of the artwork was born.
"The play is a perfect companion piece to the art," Levy says. "And it's a wonderful way to connect the theater and the gallery."
Duesberry has an intimate connection with the tragedy. The Denver artist received a grant in the '90s to study and paint cityscapes in New York City. Provided a studio on the 91st floor of the North Tower, she painted scenes of the city from her window for five months.
The artist who replaced Duesberry in the program was killed in the attacks.
Three of Duesberry's paintings will serve as a backdrop for Lovers Leapt, along with a scene she painted of Ground Zero years later. The actors in the short two-character play will represent both victims of the tragedy and, standing on two blocks, the towers themselves. Levy hopes that viewers will connect to the event in a different way by seeing what the experience may have been like inside the building.
"It's what's going on inside their heads," says Steve Emily, who plays one of the lovers. "Lots of 'what-ifs.'"
"These two people had wanted to connect," says Bramm, describing the plot of the play. "But for reasons of their own, they never did. It's about not putting off love; don't wait for tomorrow."
Although the subject matter is naturally sad, both actors say there is also humor and lightness. "For me, the takeaway is hope," says Kara Whitney, who plays the second ill-fated lover. "It's about saying you love the people you love, and not taking anything for granted."