Finish Line Is a Different Kind of Boston Marathon Tribute

The play uses the actual words of survivors to explore another side of the 2013 bombings.

Photo by Olga Khvan

Photo by Olga Khvan

Finish Line: The Untold Stories of the 2013 Boston Marathon is taking a different approach to honor those who were affected by the bombings.

Produced by the Boston Theater Company, the play explores another side of the tragic events using the actual words of survivors, first-responders, and others, as co-creators Joey Frangieh and Lisa Rafferty wanted to make sure they highlighted the “unsung heroes” from that day.

After seeing all of the attention the media gave to bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the weeks following the attack, Frangieh was inspired to work on a Marathon production as a way to showcase the stories of people who were affected by the tragedy, but weren’t making the headlines.

“It really started to bother me that we were so focused on [the Tsarnaevs],” Frangieh said. “I wanted to create a piece that focused on the heroes, the unsung heroes, the untold stories of the people who ran 26.2 miles, turned around, and went back into a bomb to save lives.”

He added, “It showed that we didn’t allow an act of violence to define who we are.”

Rafferty, who teaches theater classes at Bridgewater State University, had a different path toward Finish Line.

The idea for a possible production first came about when she heard that one of her students was “called up the night of April 15, 2013 with his National Guard unit to assist law enforcement.” Rafferty felt that she needed to discuss the situation with her other students, using theater as a vehicle to begin the healing process.

“I knew that documentary theater would be the best way,” Rafferty said.

While Frangieh admits that they initially came up with different ideas at completely different times, they decided to team up because they had the “exact same goals.”

The duo teamed up with a number of volunteers who helped conduct and meticulously transcribe the interviews which were written out, “every word for word, every um for um, pause for pause.”

Whenever possible, the interviewee was paired with an interviewer from a similar background, so clergy members would interview other clergy members, survivors would interview other survivors, and journalists would interview other journalists. The creators note that the research process took on a life of its own and that, overall, 88 people were interviewed, while over 30 stories are directly represented.

“It’s really a community that’s come together to create this show that is about a community,” Frangieh said. “That was something that was really important for Lisa and I.”

Ten actors portray over 30 characters in the play, which is split into three parts. The production begins with a monologue, followed by split scenes involving two characters simultaneously describing their stories, and a final act that tackles the community’s emotions and feelings over what happened.

What hasn’t been included are any mention of the bombers or any recreation of the attack. Frangieh and Rafferty wanted to make sure that the focus stayed on the survivors and heroes of the event.

The creators hope that audiences will be inspired by these stories and come away believing that “love is more powerful than hate.”

“This city is defined by determination and resiliency and humor and love,” Rafferty said. “That’s what I hope people take away.”

Finish Line: The Untold Stories of the 2013 Boston Marathon is holding previews now through Saturday, April 23. The play will make its world premiere in 2017. For more information, check out