Alumnus returns to honor firefighters

Jeff Lamson -
 Arts & Entertainment Editor

Southern alumnus Dan Lauria, Class of 1970, returns to Southern to honor firefighters with costar, Wendie Malick, in the play, “The Guys.”

“The Guys,” is based on a true story, Lauria said, that playwright and journalist, Anne Nelson experienced in the wake of 9/11. Fire captain, Nick (Lauria), lost eight members of his ladder company and needs help writing their eulogies. The help he finds is in Joan (Malick) and the play follows their first meeting and the writing of the first four of the eulogies.

“This is our way of, help[ing] raise money for a good cause, for scholarships, but it’s also to let people know, ‘Don’t forget about 9/11,’” Lauria said. “These guys are still out there putting their lives on the line.”

Lauria said that he worked down at Ground Zero for nine months after 9/11 and got to know a lot of the people around the area, including the real fire captain on which his character is based.

The former Southern football player has been in the shows, “The Wonder Years,” and “Sullivan & Son,” as well as more recent endeavors such as “Shameless,” and “This is Us,” along with Malick.

“I always love coming back to Southern,” Lauria said. “I wouldn’t have been an actor if I hadn’t gone here.”

Lauria said that he had just only found out that the production of “The Tempest,” that he acted in here was the first production on this stage in the Lyman Center. He went on to give the commencement speech at Southern for the centennial anniversary in 1993.

The play explores grief and the helplessness that many felt at the time. Those connected to it directly in Nick and those who wanted to do anything to help in Joan, because it was her city too.

Lauria and Malick were able to match the dramatic and somber tone that the play called for while also calling forth human lightheartedness as Nick recounted stories of his fellow firemen. The switch and flow was smooth and believable.

Through the performance and the dialogue, Lauria was able to bring characters that were not even on stage to life in his descriptions of the men that his character had lost. While clearly still grieving, he was able to joke about them and see them as normal and flawed humans.

Sarah Cooney, a freshman, and social work major, said that she found the play to be inspirational in capturing a day in the life of a real fireman in the days following 9/11.

Cooney said that her father came to visit her and see the play together. She said that she and her father are both firefighters and make a point of doing anything that supports that community.

Lauria had a high level of praise for his costar. He said that Malick is one of the best.

“You say, ‘Wendie Malick,’ and everyone smiles, but I’ve worked with the best, like Judith Light, Priscilla Lopez, Tony Award winners,” Lauria said, “and Wendie is right at that level.”

Lauria and Malick take the play to different locations around the country at this time of year including California, given all of the wildfires that occur there.

“What I hope the audience gets is that every time they walk by a firehouse,” Lauria said, “they say, ‘thank you.’”

Photo Credit: Jeff Lamson


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