A LETTER FROM JACK CUMMINGS III
It is my sincerest hope that this finds you safe, well, and at home. I wanted to write and give you a brief update on Transport Group since Covid-19 has tragically turned our world upside down. We closed our offices on March 13 and our staff is now working from home. During our hiatus, we will continually be hard at work to keep the company alive, looking ahead to a strong return for our 20th Anniversary Season ready to play our part in creating meaningful live theatre.
I am writing to you today April 6, the date of what would have been our annual gala—a key night for our yearly fundraising goals. We were set to honor two incredible women: our outgoing Executive Director Lori Fineman, who for 13 years led our company and played a crucial role in getting Transport Group to where we are today, as well as the brilliant director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall who recently helmed our exciting production of The Unsinkable Molly Brown. We look forward to honoring Lori and Kathleen when this crisis has passed.
Thinking of where I was going to be this evening has made me think back on Transport Group’s very first fundraiser, occurring a month after the life-changing attacks of 9/11. The irony of Transport Group beginning its journey during our last national crisis and now entering its 20th anniversary amidst the current global crisis is not lost on me—sadly, the eerie feelings are all too familiar.
In thinking back to that night of October 15, 2001, there is one specific memory I’d like to share with you. The theme of the evening was “Gimme A Break” wherein the invited performers were asked to share the story of what they deemed their big break and then sing the corresponding song. My friend Rita Gardner, who originated the role of Luisa in The Fantasticks, was on hand that evening to tell her story. She told a hilarious tale of barging into her audition for The Fantasticks and singing “Over The Rainbow,” dryly recalling, “Well, I figured, why not? It worked for Judy Garland.” Then her accompanist gently started to play and Rita, with her singular voice, began singing:
Try to remember the kind of September, when life was slow and oh, so mellow.
Try to remember the kind of September when grass was green and grain so yellow…
Try to remember when life was so tender that no one wept except the willow.
Try to remember when life was so tender that dreams were kept beside your pillow…
The moment caught everyone completely off-guard. By the time she finished, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. By sharing this memory, Rita had unexpectedly given all of us there that night a much-needed moment to collectively grieve, mourn, and celebrate being together. I’ll never forget it—it is one of my most cherished Transport Group memories.
As we head into our 20th anniversary, I thought this would be a good moment for the company and artists we have worked with over the last two decades to reflect back on our body of work and offer personal insights into the theatre we have created. This series, which we are naming While We’re Home, will commence this Friday and continue every Friday for the next few months. With any luck, looking back will allow us to thoughtfully reflect upon where we have been so we can better see where we need to go—there is an old Russian saying I am fond of that says, “Future steps are built on old stones.”
In the meantime, we are wishing everyone safety and good health. I look forward to the day when we can all be in one room together and experience the healing magic of a moment like we did with Rita all those years ago.
Jack Cummings III