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 Saywer

Deb Saywer

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

Chriss Meecham

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 act of civil disobedience in the new century. The next evening, I participated in a march and vigil.  With the proper permit and accompanied by police, we sang and distributed information about nuclear testing to tourists and temporarily closed down all lanes of traffic on the Las Vegas Strip.

On my birthday in 2002, my first grandchild was born.  It frightened me to think of the nuclear legacy she was inheriting.  I soon decided that for her sake, as well as for the sake of all of our children, I would work to rid the world of nuclear weapons.  In 2007, I joined with Deb Sawyer and others in starting the Utah Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (UCAN).  For the past half dozen years, I have spent a good deal of my time focused on this aim.  In fact, I joke with my friends that since adding “the elimination of all nuclear weapons” to my bucket list, I’ve ensured myself a very long (and hopefully) productive life 🙂

Utah Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (UCAN)

Utah Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (UCAN)

Utah Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (UCAN): In 2007 a collection of concerned Utah citizens organized in an effort to rid the world of nuclear weapons.  UCAN was born in an effort to inform Utahns of the importance of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and to encourage political engagement.  Towards these aims, UCAN has hosted a number of educational programs, including lectures and films, and launched various political action campaigns, most recently urging support of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.  We are continually looking for ways to take our message to new audiences.

Unfortunately, most people view the possibility of a nuclear-free world with studied skepticism.  This is especially true today with concerns about the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iraq.  It’s hard to believe that the “genie” will ever be put back in the bottle. Yet, there is hope. There is a growing and diverse group of leaders and fellow citizens from across the political spectrum who believe that we are at a unique point in the nuclear age.  Either we move towards the elimination of nuclear weapons or the proliferation of nuclear weapons will accelerate.

National security experts George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger and Sam Nunn are among those sounding the alarm, but also outlining a step-by-step process of how we might proceed in taking the world to the next stage.  In their Wall Street Journal article published in January 4, 2007, they reminded us that President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev came close to realizing the vision of total nuclear disarmament when they met in Reykjavik.

Richard Rhodes

Richard Rhodes

In September 2012, we at UCAN were delighted to learn that Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Rhodes had written a play about the historical meeting in October 1986 between Reagan and Gorbachev.  In fact, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of this historical summit, a staged reading of the play was being presented in New York, but the tickets were available by invitation only.

Then it hit us – if we couldn’t attend the New York reading, why not bring the play to Salt Lake City?  Of course, there was only one theatre company in town that we thought might be interested – Plan-B Theatre.  Chriss sent Jerry Rapier an email on September 25, 2012 which read in part, “As a subscriber to Plan-B, I am always impressed with your artful and thought-provoking productions. We would very much like to discuss the possibility of bringing the play REYKJAVIK to the Salt Lake audience sometime in the future.”  Shortly afterwards we received a copy of the script from Richard Rhodes and met Jerry at a downtown coffee shop.  Jerry was immediately receptive to the idea and with his typical gusto set everything in motion – all of this when he and Kirt were in the midst of finalizing the adoption of their son, Oscar, no less.   It was amazing how quickly everything fell into place.

Script-In-Hand Series: REYKJAVIK

Script-In-Hand Series: REYKJAVIK

Thanks to the creativity and generosity of Richard Rhodes, Plan-B Theatre, and Telemachus Foundation, Salt Lake City will be home to one of only a handful of readings of REYKJAVIK.  We invite you to join us for this historical event and welcome Richard Rhodes to Utah.

REYKJAVIK by Richard Rhodes is presented as part of Plan-B’s Script-In-Hand Series on Monday, June 24 at 7pm. The evening features Robert Scott Smith reading Reagan and Jason Tatom reading Gorbachev and a post-show discussion with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes led by Mary Dickson. Tickets are free but required – click here for more information and to reserve your free tickets.

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