Everybody Comes From Away: Art, Politics, and 9/11

A CPD-CTG Partnership

On September 11, 2001, three dozen U.S. flights landed in Gander, Newfoundland, a small community that sprung to action, welcoming and providing refuge to some 6,500 Americans who needed a home away from home.

Fast forward to April 2017 when Tony-nominated writers Irene Sankoff and David Hein created “Come From Away,” which tells this story of cross-cultural tension and integration during an incredibly vulnerable time. Join CPD as we unpack this musical from the perspective of those on the ground and those in the arts community.

Mayor of Gander Percy Farwell, Center Theatre Group Producing Director Douglas C. Baker, Film Festival Director and Curator Jacqueline Lyanga, and Theatrical Producer Cynthia Stroum participated in a panel discussion moderated by Josh Kun, Director, USC Annenberg School for Communication.  Panelists discussed themes of openness, tolerance and cultural generosity that were exemplified during the week of 9/11 on the ground in Gander and in the musical. "Come From Away" underscores the role of empathy in cultural encounters—an invaluable component for good public diplomacy anywhere.

CTG Producing Director Douglas C. Baker shared some insider thoughts on why Come From Away is a unique opportunity to use storytelling to build bridges and empathy, all while entertaining audiences. Watch: 

About Douglas Baker

Douglas C. Baker (Producing Director) is now in his 29th season at Center Theatre Group. Previously, he managed Broadway and touring productions including TruBorn YesterdayThe Gospel at ColonusAnnieA Chorus LineWorkingThe Wiz, and Legends!, which premiered at the Ahmanson Theatre in 1986 and starred Mary Martin and Carol Channing. Doug is a member of the Achievement Hall of Fame of Chagrin Falls Schools in Ohio and a graduate of Albion College. He is an active member of the Broadway League, the Independent Presenters Network, and is a proud member of the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers. In May 2013 Doug received the Broadway League’s prestigious Outstanding Achievement in Presenter Management Award.

About Percy Farwell

Mayor Farwell has been a Gander resident for over 50 years and has been actively involved in the community throughout that time. After a period of time working in the private sector in the oil and transportation industries, he spent 27 years in the public sector with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador where he held progressively responsible positions in regional and economic development and, in 2017, concluded his career after 17 years as Regional Director with the department responsible for the province’s economic development mandate.

Mayor Farwell was first elected to Gander’s Town Council in 1993 and was subsequently re-elected in 1997 and 2001, serving 12 years in various positions of leadership, including nearly six years as Deputy Mayor. In 2017, he returned to the political arena and was elected as Gander’s 9th Mayor. Mayor Farwell has been active in his community throughout his life including competitive sport, where he has represented the province at the regional/national level in three different sports and community theater, where he has been active on stage with the Avion Players for over 30 years. 

About Josh Kun

Josh Kun is a 2016 MacArthur Fellow and the winner of a 2018 Berlin Prize and a 2006 American Book Award. His research focuses on the arts and politics of cultural connection, with an emphasis on popular music, sound, the cultures of globalization, the US-Mexico border, Los Angeles, and Jewish-American musical history. He also works as a journalist, essayist and curator. He currently serves as the Director of the USC Annenberg School of Communication.

As a curator of exhibitions, installations, and public humanities projects, he has worked with The Getty Foundation (Pacific Standard Time), The Grammy Museum (Trouble in Paradise: Music and Los Angeles 1945-75), LA County Museum of Art (The Corrido of L.A.), The Skirball Cultural Center (Jews on Vinyl), The Los Angeles Public Library (To Live and Dine in LA), among others. Prior to joining the USC Annenberg School, Kun was an associate professor of English at the University of California, Riverside. He holds a Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley. More

About Jacqueline Lyanga

Jacqueline Lyanga was the Guest Director of VR and Immersive Storytelling at Film Independent’s inaugural VR and Immersive Storytelling Showcase at the LA Film Festival this fall. Ms. Lyanga was the Director of AFI FEST presented by Audi, the American Film Institute’s (AFI) annual international film festival in Los Angeles for eight years, from 2010 to 2018 where she launched programs and curation that enabled the festival to expand in scope and scale through partnerships with international cultural and community organizations. She has been a panelist and moderator of industry panels at the Berlinale, the Cannes Film Festival, the Forbes Women’s Summit and the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and has reviewed grants for the National Endowment for the Arts. Ms. Lyanga has served on international film festival juries at festivals such as the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the Mumbai Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). 

About Cynthia Stroum

Cynthia Stroum, Producer of Come From Away, graduated from the University of Southern California and worked in the film industry, eventually producing national television commercials. She now focuses on personal investments in start-up businesses in philanthropy. She was the United States Ambassador to Luxembourg (2009-2011) and has served on the boards of Pacific Northwest Ballet, Channel 9/KCTS (Public TV), the Jewish Television Network, A Contemporary Theatre and, most recently, the Shoah Foundation (founded by Steven Spielberg). She is also the national chair of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN). 

Below is a full-length video of the event. You can find the original video on USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism's Youtube channel here.


Networking reception to follow the program.


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