Teresa Sanderson has appeared in Plan-B’s Script-In-Hand Series, a slew of SLAMs, all but one RADIO HOUR, STAGE DIRECTIONS, ANIMAL FARM, TRAGEDY: A TRAGEDY, THE ALIENATION EFFEKT, EXPOSED, DI ESPERIENZA and MESA VERDE.
Pick my most memorable Plan-B role? I’m not sure how to do that. Each one has been a rich and rewarding experience. It is sort of like picking a favorite child. My history with Plan-B is long. I have made life long friends, and feel lucky to be part of the Plan-B family. There’s ANIMAL FARM (my kids’ favorite) and TRAGEDY: A TRAGEDY (my husband’s favorite).
I guess if I have to pick, I am going to have to say Mary Dickson’s EXPOSED, about the impact of nuclear testing on our state and our nation. To be part of telling Mary’s personal story, thousands of people’s story, as it turns out, was a great honor.
It is a huge responsibility to play real people on stage. In EXPOSED I was excited and intimidated all at the same time. I knew that all of the characters that I played were going to see the show at one point or another.
Now I can really relate to the fact the we were an easy target. Patriotic people who are used to following what our leaders said. I am a very patriotic person, brought up to respect authority. Both of my parents were public servants. My father an authority figure. I did what he said and never ask why. Our government told us we would be safe, and we believed them. I can imagine myself on test days sitting in a lawn chair, “safety” glasses on, watching the blast, writing my name in the ash, like so many kids in Southern Utah did.Â We were all “exposed” here along the Wasatch Front. From St. George to… well, fallout was reported in pockets all over the United States.
Monday, August 8, 2011
My husband Barry grew up in Roy, Utah, in nice neighborhood with an inordinate number of cancer deaths. When you look at the map of where the fallout went on test days, Roy is covered. Barry has lost over 20 neighbors, including his aunt and uncle (who lived next door to his family) and his own mother to cancer. If we made a map like Irma Thomas did in St. George, all but two house on the block were affected with multiple cancer deaths.
I have lived a relatively charmed life. Yes I have know great loss. I have watched helplessly as the people I love have suffered. But nothing like Michelle Thomas, Elizabeth Catalan, DarleneÂ PhillipsÂ – all women I portrayed in EXPOSED – live with everyday of their lives. I can relate to their fight these women. What I can’t imagine is living in that kind of pain, all day, every day. Dealing with the anger, the betrayal.
When opening night of EXPOSED arrived. It was hard to miss Michelle’s wheelchair in the front row. Darlene was in the house as well. The other characters I played all saw the show at one point or another during the run. I think they were all satisfied with my work, and more importantly, they were thrilled to have their stories told.
A year after the first run of the show closed we toured Utah. EXPOSED was very well received in Moab. We had a lively post-show discussion. The anger in the theatre was palpable. Moab is still in the process of cleaning up uranium tailings in their own community.
But in St. George, there was NO audience. We basically did a matinee so my mom could see the show. There were maybe 15 people in the audience. After the post show discussion, a young man approached us and said he was born and raised in St George. He had lost several family members to cancer and other illnesses attributed to testing. He had never heard even a whisper of this story. He was outraged. An activist was born that day.
We ended each performance of the run and the tour with the reading of a list of names that have lost their lives to to testing. After each performance people in the audience gave us new names as they left the theatre and we added them to the next performance. My cousin’s husband is on the list, Barry’s aunt and uncle and his mom were added to the list. And so was Jerry’s mother.
I will never forget one patron discussing the play with me months after seeing the show. She actually said, “Well it was a very one-sided view. Our government would never put its citizens in danger like that.” A cold chill ran up my spine. I went home, sat down and wrote letters to my representatives. There will be no more testing in my lifetime, without me speaking out.