Jessamyn Svensson on GHOSTS

Jessamyn Svensson is a theatre student at Utah Valley University making her Plan-B debut as Regina Engstrand in the Script-In-Hand Series reading of Henrik Ibsen’s GHOSTS, in a new translation by Eric Samuelsen. Regina Engstrand is, to me, a desperately hopeful individual — a state of being that any person is familiar with, whether we are trying to quell it in order to not get our hopes up too high, or something we cling to like addicts because maybe, just maybe, holding onto that feeling will get us to the end of the day. Having said that, I feel like the presence of hopeful desperation in a person, especially a woman during the time and place GHOSTS is set [Victorian Norway], is very interesting. It’s what drives Regina to do the things that she does which seem contradictory throughout the course of the play; she peppers her language with French to try and (1) prove to Oswald that she is his match, and (2) elevate herself in order to more fully separate herself socially from her father. She affects her behavior toward Pastor Manders to seem more pious and acts completely subservient to Mrs. Alving. The fact that a woman during this time could only take her fate into her own hands by  the selling of her body, to me, as a modern-day feminist is utterly abhorrent. But that is all marriage is to Regina, an opportunity, a strategic move she makes in order to change her life. An exchange of herself, body-and-all, for a step up the social ladder. Granted, that’s still what marriage is today but now,...

Jason Tatom on fear, the breaking point and REYKJAVIK

Jason Tatom portrays Mikhail Gorbachev in REYKJAVIK, Plan-B’s latest Script-In-Hand Series reading on June 24. He has previously appeared in Plan-B’s EXPOSED, LADY MACBETH, RADIO HOUR EPISODE 7: SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE BLUE CARBUNCLE, several SLAMs and the Script-In-Hand Series reading of 8. Working on REJKYAVIK has honestly been a bit of a puzzle. The events mentioned, as well as the summits themselves, are well within my memory. What’s missing, frankly, is the fear. We are thankfully far enough away from these events, that we forget the climate of fear around nuclear weapons. We’ve gone from fear of the bomb, and teaching school kids to “duck and cover;” to a fear of jetliners plowing into buildings, shoe and underwear bombs, and explosives packed into pressure cookers. One fear exchanged for another. Frankly, the fears of the 1980’s are seen as “quaint.” Imagine that. The toughest part of working on the piece has been how to get the dialogue between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev to sound like it is being said for the very first time. It wasn’t until I read Richard Rhodes’ blog last week that things fell into place. I wasn’t aware that around 50% of the content of the play is taken directly from official transcripts, or books written by Reagan and Gorbachev themselves. The dry, technical jargon is a way of hiding, of trying to nail the other guy down without giving anything away yourself. Basically a giant chess game, with ICBMs and cruise missiles as the chess pieces, and all of us as the pawns. It’s this dialogue that chafes these two men, driving...

A REYKJAVIK Primer from Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Richard Rhodes

Richard Rhodes is the author or editor of 24 books including THE MAKING OF THE ATOMIC BOMB (Pulitzer Prize in Nonfiction, National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award) and DARK SUN: THE MAKING OF THE HYDROGEN BOMB (finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History).  REYKJAVIK, his first play, will be presented as part of Plan-B’s Script-In-Hand Series on Monday, June 24.  Tickets are free but required – reserve yours here. THE SETTING Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland, an island country located about 500 miles northwest of Scotland in the North Atlantic that was first settled by the Norse more than a thousand years ago. Its parliament, the Althingi (the “all things”) is the oldest such democratic institution in the world. In 1986 Mikhail Gorbachev, the Chairman of the Politburo of the Soviet Union and General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, invited Ronald Reagan, the President of the United States, to meet with him in London or Reykjavik to begin discussing the issues they would take up the following year at a previously-scheduled Washington summit. Reagan chose Reykjavik. That meeting, on Saturday and Sunday, 11-12 October 1986, famously expanded from a preliminary discussion to a full-blown summit. Most notably, the President and the General Secretary came within a hair’s-breadth of agreeing to begin the process of eliminating all the world’s nuclear weapons in concert with the other nuclear powers of the day (which were the UK, France, China, India and, undeclared, Israel). In 1986, there were a total of 60,056 known nuclear weapons in the world, the vast majority of them in the arsenals of the two...

Mary Dickson on Reagan, Gorbachev, Glasnost, Disarmament and REYKJAVIK

Mary Dickson is a well-known advocate for Downwinders.  Her play, EXPOSED, received its world premiere at Plan-B in 2007 and toured Utah in 2008. I remember being in Moscow in 1990 in the midst of Glasnost, driving with two political science professors – one Russian, one American – on a grey rainy day over muddy roads. The windshield wipers on a car that should long ago have been retired barely worked. I went back to my hotel room after our outing to a library, overwhelming depressed. This was the country that had struck terror in our hearts throughout my childhood – Reagan’s “Evil Empire.” Their roads were in dire need of repair and they couldn’t even make a functioning windshield wiper. The Soviet Union’s internal infrastructure was in a horrible state, yet they had the power to blow us up. It underscored the utter absurdity of the arms race that had held the world hostage for decades and that had led two civilized nations to brainwash their citizens and to test nuclear weapons on their own people in the name of national security. I thought of that afternoon in the Soviet Union as I read Richard Rhodes’ two-man play, REYKJAVIK, which gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the historic two-day summit between Reagan and Gorbachev in October of 1986. These two men, who both described themselves as “coming from nowhere” but had emerged as the most powerful world leaders of their time, came together for a one-on-one confidential and frank meeting to slam the brakes on the out-of-control arms race. By the time they met, more than 100 proposals had...

Deb Sawyer and Chriss Meecham of the Utah Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (UCAN) on bringing REYKJAVIK by Richard Rhodes to Salt Lake City June 24.

Deb Sawyer: I got involved with nuclear weapons issues back when I volunteered for Frances Farley’s re-election to the Utah State Senate in 1980.  That was the time of the battle against the MX basing mode with which Frances was very involved.  At that time I was also a graduate student in physics at the U of U and very aware that half of the students I taught in my help sessions would likely go on and work for the military—or the military industrial complex.  I was also very aware that nuclear weapons are a child of physicists.  So I went to talks and questioned myself as to how to address these challenges.  That was also when I started attending Quaker Meetings, which added to the depth of the questioning.  I’ve been more or less involved ever since. Chriss Meecham: Growing up in Utah during the Cold War, I was acutely aware of the nuclear threat and the whole MAD strategy.  I felt especially vulnerable after our neighbor built a bomb shelter in his back yard knowing that our family had no such thing.  As a young adult, I would from time to time participate in anti-nuclear demonstrations, but it wasn’t until the dawn of the New Millennium that I became a true anti-nuclear activist. On January 1, 2000, I joined one of my heroes, Martin Sheen, and hundreds of other dedicated souls at the Nevada Test Site to pray and demonstrate for a nuclear weapons-free world.  I was among 313 protestors from around the U.S. who were arrested for trespass shortly after midnight in what had to be the first...

Script-In-Hand Series: REYKJAVIK

by Pulitzer Prize Winner Richard Rhodes Monday, June 24, 2013 at 7pm Jeanne Wagner Theatre, Rose Wagner 138 W 300 S, SLC Free but tickets required – SOLD OUT – click here for wait list information Presented as a staged reading as part of our Script-In-Hand Series, REYKJAVIK dramatizes the iconic two-day summit in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1986, during which President Reagan (read by Robert Scott Smith) and Mikhail Gorbachev (read by Jason Tatom) debated the total abolition of their countries’ nuclear weapons. Followed by a post-show discussion with Richard Rhodes, led by Mary Dickson. PRESS KUER’s RadioWest  |  Mormon Iconoclast  |  The Salt Lake Tribune  |  SLCFeminist Produced in partnership with Utah Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.      WHO’S WHO Richard Rhodes (Playwright) is the author or editor of 24 books including THE MAKING OF THE ATOMIC BOMB (Pulitzer Prize in Nonfiction, National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award) and DARK SUN: THE MAKING OF THE HYDROGEN BOMB (finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History).  REYKJAVIK is his first play. Jerry Rapier (Director) has been Producing Director of Plan-B Theatre Company since 2000. Robert Scott Smith (Ronald Reagan) has previously appeared in Plan-B’s BASH: LATTERDAY PLAYS. Jason Tatom (Mikhail Gorbachev) has previously appeared in Plan-B’s EXPOSED, LADY MACBETH, RADIO HOUR EPISODE 7: SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE BLUE CARBUNCLE, several SLAMs and the Script-In-Hand Series reading of 8. Mary Dickson (Post-Show Discussion) is an advocate for Downwinders.  Her play, EXPOSED, received its world premiere at Plan-B and was one of 24 plays nominated for the Theater Critics Association/Steinberg Award for Best New American Play Produced Outside New York in 2007....

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