Harter Clingman. (photo provided)

An Ottumwa native is coming home to Iowa as one of the stars in the touring Broadway production of “Come From Away,” which opens tonight in Des Moines.

Harter Clingman plays several roles in the musical, which is set just after the horrors of September 11th, 2001. The worst-ever terrorist attack on American soil seems an unlikely premise for a family stage play, but Clingman says it works, and works well.
“We’d like to say that this show is not really about Nine-Eleven. We like to say that it’s about Nine-Twelve,” Clingman says. “This show is about the response to tragedy and I think for audiences seeing it across North America, they hopefully like to think of themselves sort of reflected in this piece.”

With American airspace shut down after the attacks, dozens of passenger jets were forced to divert course and land at a small airport in Newfoundland, Canada. The musical is the story of how that town of about 9,000 people took in 7,000 more.

“In the face of a national and international tragedy, inherently there is a response to lifting up one’s neighbor no matter where that neighbor may be from,” Clingman says. “Ultimately, it’s uplifting in that regard.” He was only ten years old on the day of the attacks, and Clingman notes there’s an entire generation of Americans who have no direct recollection of that terrible page in our history.

“We do get quite a few young people at the show and it’s amazing to share it with people who have no real-life associations with Nine-Eleven,” Clingman says. “So, to bring a story that is funny and reverent and pays homage to that day and gives a slightly different perspective on it, I think is actually really important.”

Clingman is in his fourth year on the tour and says he’s thrilled to be bringing the production to his home state, especially during the Thanksgiving holiday. The Des Moines Civic Center is hosting “Come From Away” through Sunday.