Jason Tatom on fear, the breaking point and REYKJAVIK

Jason Tatom

Jason Tatom

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 them a little batty. I mean imagine, doing nothing but talking and talking, but never actually saying anything. And that is where the breaking point comes.

These two leaders do the unimaginable. They start to talk. To each other. The leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union actually talking, and coming so very close to actually making the planet a much safer place to live. Imagine that. The leaders of two “enemy” countries talking and getting things done. We can’t even get the leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties in a room together, and we’re all supposedly on the same side. It’s finding that breaking point, the point where all of the vetted political language breaks down, and they actually start to communicate, that will make this piece interesting as an actor, and hopefully interesting for you as a viewer. The breaking point: that’s where the real work begins.

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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