Attack Underscores Play's Message

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Friday, June 12, 2009 12:00 AM

Janet Langhart Cohen spent Wednesday morning preparing for the world premiere of her first play, "Anne & Emmett." More than 400 people -- including World War II survivors and veterans of the civil rights movement -- were expected to attend the event at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum that night.

Then terror struck.

"Everything was so surreal," the former broadcaster told us yesterday. "I went from opening-night jitters to murder at the museum. I couldn't believe it had happened. It was like a bad dream: A white racist killed a black man at a Jewish shrine. It is just so sad."

Her one-act play is an imaginary conversation between Anne Frank and Emmett Till, teenage victims of anti-Semitism and racism, respectively. "Her diary impacted me so much as a young, 15-year-old girl myself," said Cohen, who spent three years researching and writing the play, targeted especially at middle school and high school students.

Cohen was headed to the museum Wednesday afternoon for the final rehearsal when she got a call from her husband, former defense secretary Bill Cohen, who was waiting for her in the lobby when the gunman attacked. He called to say he was unharmed, but she wasn't allowed in the crime scene and he couldn't leave for hours, until police had interviewed the witnesses.

The play's premiere was canceled, although a previously scheduled performance will go on tonight at George Washington University on what would have been Frank's 80th birthday. Cohen's first theatrical effort has become, ironically, newsworthy overnight.

"It's important that the message and moral of the play get out," she said. "They say 'the show will go on' and it will go on, but I'm not thinking about that now."

'I Am The Mayor, I Am the Mayor . . . '

Just so you don't forget who he is! . . . Adrian Fenty wasn't originally expected at Eastern High School's graduation ceremonies early Wednesday, so he sent over a letter of commendation for the graduates. But then to everyone's delight, he ended up stopping by after all -- and reading his own letter. And after all the "you will make a great contribution" and "my best wishes for great success" stuff, he kept on reading through to the very end: "Adrian Fenty, mayor of the District of Columbia."

Ooops? It got some laughs, but a rep said the mayor knew what he was doing: He always reads those parts out loud, proclamation-style.

Hey, Isn't That . . . ?

-- Owen Wilson accidentally crashing a book party Wednesday night. The actor (in town filming a movie with Reese Witherspoon) apparently was drawn into Georgetown's Tackle Box restaurant by the big displays for John McCaslin's new book "Weed Man" (with its cannabis-leaf-bedecked cover); not on the list, but the clipboard girls didn't hassle him. Browsed through the book, mingled a bit but scooted out when he realized it was a private party.

-- Tate Donovan exiting the coffee bar at Dean & DeLuca in Georgetown yesterday afternoon. Khaki shorts, cute blonde in sandals by his side. The star of "Damages" and "The O.C." is in town shooting an indie film.


"The good actors are all screwed up. They're all in pain. It's a profession of bottom-feeders and heartbroken people."

-- Shia LaBeouf in Parade explaining . . . why he's a good actor, maybe, we guess. The 23-year-old also says when he's feeling insecure, he'll stop by the side of a busy road to see if passersby recognize him, which by definition probably makes him a really good actor.

This Just In

-- Chastity Bono is having a sex change to become a man, a publicist confirmed to reporters yesterday. The gay-rights activist and reality-TV star first gained fame through childhood appearances with parents Sonny and Cher on their TV variety show. Now 40, Bono came out publicly 20 years ago. Publicist Howard Bragman told the Associated Press that Bono "is proud of his decision" and hopes "that his choice to transition will open the hearts and minds of the public." reports that Bono now answers to Chaz.

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