Award-winning Jamaican born actress Dianne Dixon is returning to the screen as a 9/11 mother in mourning in Echoes of A Lost Son, the filmed version of a new stage drama written by playwright Chima Chikazunga. The one-act play was the winner of the Norman Hall Memorial Playwrights Festival for 2019 and is now available for viewing on YouTube.
In Echoes of a Lost Son, Dixon portrays Ruth, a New York mother traumatized by the loss of her son James during the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre in 2001. When a strange woman named Jenny arrives at her house years after the tragedy with new information about the missing James, the lives of both Ruth and James’ grieving widow Keya are suddenly and dramatically altered forever.
The production also features actors Natalie Blessing as Keya, Sophia Gutchinov as Jenny and Claudio Venancio as a police officer at the World Trade site.
The production is directed by Michael Peters.
For Dixon, who has appeared on stage in award-winning productions such as Flambeaux and Jamaica- The Musical, and on-screen in the Emmy winning tv series We Are New York – the role of Ruth was both a stretch and an emotional challenge.
“This is a woman whose son was the very center of her world,” she says, “And who lost him in the most traumatic way- missing and presumed dead with no body to bury, no real closure. And then a decade later she gets this visit from this woman and her entire world is turned upside down yet again. I’ve never really played anything like that before so it was a deeply moving, emotional experience. 9/11 never really goes away for any of us living in New York. It’s a scab on a wound that never really heals, and when you pick at it, it’s as though you re-live that pain all over again. That’s what this was for me.”
The production was shot over a two day period against a tight filming schedule which intensified the experience even further.
“We had long and emotional scenes to play and we had to be to be done by a certain time each day so that made the stakes even higher. But the play does have a sense of urgency about it and I think the need to get the shoot done quickly production wise, benefitted us as well. You really had to just jump in and experience the scenes as you would in real life because there wasn’t any time to do a lot of retakes or detailed table work … That made it an even more raw and organic experience in my opinion.”
Among other accolades, Dixon has been honored with two Audelco Award acting nominations for Excellence in Black Theater as well as the Caribbean Life Impact Award and The New York City Council Citation and Award for her contributions to the Performing Arts.
The Norman Hall Playwrights Festival is produced by public access television station North Shore TV (formerly known as PA TV) in Long Island, and is named in honor of stage and television director Norman Hall. Hall is best known for his work on daytime television series including The Doctors and One Life to Live, for which he won a daytime Emmy Award for directing. He joined the board of PA TV in 1994 and in 1996 he established the playwright’s festival, under the name The Playwrights Project, as a means of discovering new playwrights and plays. The festival’s winning plays were then produced and televised by PA TV. Upon his passing in 2016, PA TV paid tribute to Hall by re christening the event The Norman Hall Memorial Playwright’s Festival.
Since its inception in 1996, nearly 30 of the festival’s winning plays have been produced and televised. Echoes of A Lost Son premiered on North Shore TV in December 2019.
It can now be viewed on YouTube.