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William J. McKay Experiences 9/11 Playing a Fire Chief Eulogizing 9/11

Oyster Bay actor William J. McKay spent Friday, Sept. 11, at the prestigious Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor performing in The Guys by Anne Nelson. The beautifully crafted two-actor play explores the firefighters’ lives lost in the attack on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.

Paralyzed by grief and unable to put his thoughts into words, Nick, a fire captain, seeks out the help of a writer to compose eulogies for the colleagues and friends he lost in the catastrophic events of September 11, 2001. As Joan, an editor by trade, draws Nick out, “the guys” powerful profiles emerge revealing what ordinary people can do in extraordinary circumstances.


The Guys is a staged reading of the play by Anne Nelson and is directed by Gerard Priori, starring William J. McKay and Myla Pitt. The Guys was originally produced at The Flea Theatre in NYC on Dec. 4, 2001, and was written by Anne Nelson in nine days.

Mr. McKay is a lifetime member of the Actors Studio and said, “This is a role I have performed numerous times before and one that has great meaning to me. I was a volunteer fireman and EMT with the East Norwich Fire Company for 12 years, and have been a longtime resident of East Norwich and Oyster Bay. Of course, I knew many firemen who perished on that awful day in New York City.

“Adding extra poignancy to this production was a touching irony that I learned regarding the costuming of my character ‘Nick’.

“Toward the end of the play, my character switches from civilian clothes to an FDNY Captain’s uniform. The Bay Street costumer had obtained the uniform from a real FDNY officer. When asked if he would like to attend the show as thanks for the loan of the uniform, the officer politely declined. When asked for a reason why, he stated that he felt the play’s story line was too painfully close to his own past experience. In The Guys, Nick has lost eight men and goes to a writer to help him compose their eulogies. The real fire captain had lost nine men and also had to write their eulogies. This could not be a better example of what the show is all about, and what we need to remember,” said Mr. McKay.

The proceeds of the play (tickets $15) went to the East End Fire Department.

At The Flea Theatre run of The Guys, a handful of actors rotated playing the roles on stage that were created by Sigourney Weaver and Bill Murray. Mr. Murray was followed in the role by Bill Irwin, then by Anthony LaPaglia, who also performed opposite Ms. Weaver. Susan Sarandon performed in the play for a number of weeks. Tim Robbins also performed the play with Swoosie Kurtz.

Swoosie Kurtz and Bill Irwin were featured on the book on tape, the cover of which featured Sigourney Weaver and Anthony LaPaglia.

Anthony LaPaglia and Sigourney Weaver were featured in the movie of The Guys. The movie was shown on television which broadened the audience even more. [While we didn’t have the pleasure of seeing Mr. McKay in the role, we have the memory of watching Ms. Weaver and Mr. LaPaglia in the film. The play has lasting value, especially in light of the subject matter, still so close to our hearts, eight years later.]