A 'Titanic' production for 100th anniversary of ship's sinking

It's a tragic tale that has moved people for 100 years.

The stories of families ripped apart, the valor of men young and old, a once majestic machine gone in a matter of hours — the infamous sinking of the Titanic in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912 is a moment in history that no one will soon forget.

A century later and people are still fascinated by the "unsinkable" ship and the people aboard its ill-fated first journey out to sea.

Of the roughly 2,220 passengers and crew, more than 1,500 perished.

These real characters -- Captain E.J. Smith, shipbuilder Thomas Andrews, White Star Line chairman J. Bruce Ismay and more -- became the basis of a Broadway musical, which will be performed by the Bel Air Drama Company this weekend.

"Titanic, the Musical" will be presented at Bel Air High School at 7 p.m. tonight (Friday), then again at 1 and 8:15 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased at the door.

Prior to the Saturday evening show, there will be a Titanic dinner event, the menu including items that were offered for the final meal on the ship. Cast members will also be in attendance in character. The dinner is sold out.

The timing of Saturday's performance is scheduled to coincide with when the ship sank 100 years ago.

The production is one that has been in the works for several years, Chuck Bowden, one of the show's directors, said.

"Five or six years ago we [Bowden and the other two directors] realized the 100th anniversary would fall on closing night of the spring musical," he said, and it was decided to commemorate the event with a production of "Titanic."

What makes the show stand out is that all characters portrayed on stage were real passengers or crew members aboard the Titanic.

"[I] wanted to concentrate on the real story," Bowden, a drama teacher at Bel Air High School, said.

The production explores a question the public has asked since the catastrophe: who's to blame?

During a musical number in "Titanic," Andrews, Ismay and Smith lament this very question.

Was it one of them? What about the telegraph room operator who didn't read the iceberg warnings, or the crew member in the crow's nest on lookout that fateful night?

Even 100 years after the fact, there isn't a clear-cut answer. In what Bowden calls "a perfect storm" of events and circumstances, it was these "interpersonal relations at the heart of the tragedy" that the musical explores.

Portraying real people with very real stories is something that adds richness to each student's performance, the teacher said.

"They [the actors] have a much deeper connection to the characters because they know where they boarded the ship, they know where they came from," Bowden explained. "They connect to the characters much more."

Also recognizing the historical event and honoring the lives lost, Harford County Government has hoisted a replica flag of the White Star Lines, the company that operated the R.M.S. Titanic, in front of the administration building at 220 S. Main St. in Bel Air.

"This week we take time to reflect on one of the world's most infamous disaster, the sinking of what was believed to be an unsinkable ship," Harford County Executive David Craig stated in a press release. "The Titanic was in many ways a perfect reflection of society at that time. May the world never forget the terrible lessons learned as a result of the loss of the Titanic."

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