Pilot Beverley Bass Flies into Cleveland with 'Come From Away'

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Many of us remember exactly what we were doing on September 11th, 2001. 

But imagine if at the time of the terrorist attacks you were on a plane?

In the hours following the attacks, thousands of international travelers were diverted from their airline destinations to the small town of Gander, Newfoundland, in Canada.

Their story is now the basis for the Tony-winning musical "Come From Away" onstage this month at Playhouse Square.

One of the real-life tales told in the show is that of American Airlines pilot Beverley Bass, who became that airlines' first female captain in 1986. 

Beverley Bass as a new American Airlines captain 1986 [Beverley Bass]

Soon after she led the first all-female crew in history.

American Airlines' first all female crew 1986 [Beverley Bass]

Bass was flying from Paris to Dallas on 9/11 when the attacks took place, and her plane was redirected to Gander along with 37 others.

"I didn't know what terrorism meant. I thought that was something that happened somewhere else in the world, certainly not on U.S. soil. We couldn't even process the fact that airliners hit the towers," Bass said.

"Come From Away" cast [Matthew Murphy]

The musical spotlights what happened when almost 7,000 stranded passengers descended on the small town of Gander with a population of just 9,400.

"It was absolutely amazing," she said. "We were treated beautifully. There wasn't anything we wanted or needed that they didn't get right away."

The title of the musical "Come From Away" is a local reference to visitors in Newfoundland.

"If you were not born in Newfoundland you have 'come from away.'  So they referred to us as 'come from aways,'" she said.

"Come From Away" cast [Matthew Murphy]

Despite winning a Tony for Best Direction of a Musical in 2017, the show's title can be hard to remember.

"It gets called everything but 'Come from Away," she said.

One of the show's highlights is the song "Me and the Sky" performed by the Beverly Bass character onstage.

"Come From Away" cast [Matthew Murphy]

"That song is four minutes and 19 seconds. It literally chronicles my aviation life. I had no idea the song had been writtten until I heard it the first time onstage," she said.

As of this interview, Bass has seen the musical 128 times (her husband 126 times) and she knows all the actors who've portrayed her.

Dan Polletta and Beverley Bass [ideastream]

"It has just consumed our lives but in such a wonderful way.  We've had the opportunity to do so many things and participate in so many events.  It's just been life changing," she said.

"Come From Away" is onstage at Playhouse Square through July 28.

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