‘Come From Away’ artists: You will be enlightened

Music director Harry Collins, actress Kathleen Cameron anticipate upbeat crowd reaction to true story


By Cale Blakely


“It’s all about the people, the community of Gander that came together to bring hope to others at their lowest.”

This powerful statement by 2023 Penn State grad “Come From Away” Music Director Harry Collins speaks volumes for the heartwarming nature of the Tony Award-winning musical.

“Come From Away” tells the story of the people of a Newfoundland town the day after Sept. 11, 2001, when 38 planes were forced to land on the small island after the tragic terrorist attacks brought a complete lockdown to the U.S. airspace. Forced to deal with an influx of more than 7,000 passengers, the islanders banded together to comfort and house these stranded individuals so far from home.

There are a limited number of seats remaining for the touring production, which will make its Penn State debut at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7.

This tale had a profound impact on actress Kathleen Cameron, drawing her out of a four-year hiatus from theatre to audition for the U.S. tour.

“I saw the show on Broadway with my parents when it first opened, and as a half-Canadian, the show holds a super special place in my heart,” Cameron said. “I left the theatre feeling so inspired, uplifted and hopeful. That’s what really drew me to the show.”

Cameron plays the character of Bonnie Harris in the show, an SPCA worker who nursed and took care of the animals that had been trapped on the planes along with the passengers. She described her character as “stubborn” and “strong-willed,” enjoying the comedic aspects her no-nonsense attitude brings.

Her personal favorite part of the show is the “screech-in” ceremony, a Newfoundland tradition where tourists are made honorary Newfoundlanders after drinking some “screech” rum and kissing a fish. Collins said he shared the sentiment, as the band becomes an active participant in the scene, partying along with the rest of the cast.

Collins is a Penn State alum; he graduated in May with a Master of Fine Arts degree in theatre before immediately jumping into the tour. Originally from Australia, this is Collins’ first tour in the U.S., an experience he said he finds quite different from his previous endeavors.

“In Australia, we only end up going to six cities or so, whereas here, in the span of a week we’ve already been to four different locations,” Collins said.

The music has been a unique challenge for Collins, combining some musical theatre aspects with traditional Newfoundland music, which is in a similar vein to Irish traditional music. He even learned a new instrument through the process, performing on the box accordion.

For both Cameron and Collins, they said the touring experience has been an enlightening one, and the artists on tour have formed a tight-knit community to honor the story of the generous Newfoundlanders who opened their hearts and homes and shared their message of acceptance.

“You’re going to leave with a huge smile on your face, feeling connected to those around you, and with a renewed sense of community and gratitude,” Cameron said.

Cale Blakely is a communications intern for the Center for the Performing Arts.