Pioneer pilot Beverly Bass had the rare experience of seeing someone portray a part of her life on stage. She is an inspiration for one of the characters in “Come From Away,” the Broadway musical about kindness and community that lands Tuesday at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis.
“The first time I saw the show I was out of breath,” Bass said. “The song ‘Me and the Sky’ tells my life in aviation in 4 minutes and 19 seconds. I feel honored that they play me so beautifully.”
If it gave Bass the chills to be represented by a live artist, one of the actors who played her was scared.
“The first time she saw me do it was in the rehearsal room,” said Becky Gulsvig, a native of Moorhead, Minnesota, who has played bass on Broadway and does so on. the national tour. “We had barely learned about the show – it’s like Jenga and collecting sticks and scrambled eggs at the same time. And Bev and Tom, her husband, were sitting right there. My character unrolls her chair, takes the phone and talk to Tom, and while I do, Tom was 3 feet away from me. I was just trying to survive. “
Set following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, “Come From Away” concerns the 38 planes diverted to Gander, Newfoundland, after the closure of American airspace. These planes brought nearly 7,000 passengers and crew to a city with only a slightly larger population.
Bass was overseeing one of those flights, a 10-hour trip from Paris to Dallas, Texas. She was teaching a student the operation of the Boeing 777.
“We were in the middle of the North Atlantic – we didn’t know any details,” Bass recalls. “As we approached the Canadian coast, we knew all airspace was closed. When you get the order to land, it doesn’t matter what concrete we land on, we just want to shoot it down.”
His plane was the 36th of 38 civilian jumbo jets to land at an airport that was a former military base. They sat on the plane for 28 hours before disembarking the next morning.
The Tony-award-winning musical by Irene Sankoff and David Hein celebrates cultural collision and acts of generosity as Gander becomes a mini-UN. The city has come into action.
“As soon as we got off the plane – it was 7:30 am – we walked into the terminal and they were filled with tables and tables of hot food,” Bass recalls. “That tells you that all of Gander’s stoves have been running all night. They made enough food to feed 7,000 people. My boy, we have landed in a special place. “
Even before he became a common thread in a Broadway musical, Bass had a claim to the story. In 1986, she became the first female captain at American Airlines. She was 34 years old.
“I didn’t mean to make history – I was just a stubborn kid who wanted to fly planes,” Bass said. “I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t fascinated by the theory of flight.”
When Bass was growing up in Fort Myers, Florida, his neighbors owned a statue of Icarus, the figure from Greek myth that flew too close to the sun.
“I was like, ‘Oh my god he can fly,’” Bass recalls. “So I went home, climbed on the washing machine, which was in our kitchen, and tried to fly across the room. I found myself in a heap on the kitchen floor.”
When she was around 8 years old, she begged everyone she could to take her to the local airport so that she could witness take-offs and landings.
“Back then you could stand right next to the track,” Bass said. “I was watching these pilots land and I was like, ‘God, they had the coolest jobs. “”
Bass enrolled at Texas Christian University in 1970, three years before Frontier Airlines hired Emily Howell Warner as its first female airline pilot.
The bass has been in the sky ever since. It is not uncommon to see women flying airplanes today, but stereotypes persist.
“People expect to see a handsome, gray-haired man at the controls of the plane,” Bass said. “In my day, flight attendants were very supportive. They loved having female pilots. But the business leaders didn’t like it, and they used their wives as an excuse. fairly. They were very proud of their women pilots and loved to promote us. “
Bass has flown four different jets for American, flying all over the world. She became an instructor on the Boeing 777, the world’s largest jet, before retiring early 14 years ago during one of the recurring crises plaguing the airline industry.
In March, she celebrates her 70th birthday. She still flies business jets. She also flies to keep having those chills. She has seen “Come From Away” productions in London, Toronto and New York and on the road.
“I’m pretty used to seeing the show 166 times now,” Bass said, adding that she befriended the cast who played it. “I’m so proud of them. I can’t sing and I can’t dance.”
It would be one of Gulsvig’s specialties.
“It’s always a pleasure to portray the story of a strong woman,” said Gulsvig, who also played songwriter Cynthia Weil in Carole King’s musical “Beautiful”.
“This is my favorite show I’ve been on, not just because I love playing Bev and others, but it’s part of the show as a whole. I love that it’s about kindness. , that it’s true and inspires people to be better. It’s theater for all the right reasons. “
“Come from afar”
Which: Book, music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein. Directed by Christopher Ashley.
Or: Orpheum Theater, 910 avenue Hennepin. S., deputies.
When: 7:30 p.m. Tue-Thu 8 p.m. Fri, 2 p.m. & 8 p.m. Sat, 1 p.m. & 6.30 p.m. Sun. Ends January 23.
Protocol: Proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test.
Tickets: $ 40- $ 146. 1-800-982-2787 or hennepintheatretrust.org.