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NON-PROFIT HAPPENINGS - November 2008

ACME Theatre Company Presents “EXPOSED”

ACME Theatre CompanyACME Theatre Company, Inc. is pleased to announce its first venture here in Moab. The event marks the one-year anniversary of the sold-out, world premiere run of EXPOSED and is FREE. ACME is presenting the Plan-B Theatre Company, based in Salt Lake, for a one-night-only staged reading of their award-winning production of Mary Dickson’s play, EXPOSED on Friday, November 14, 2008, 7 PM at Star Hall. Seating is on a first come, first served basis. Doors open at 6:30 PM. Immediately following the reading, there will be a post show discussion with the playwright, cast and director.

Director of ACME, Paul Malluk, says “Partnering with theatre companies around the state is our first step in bringing theatre to Moab with the goal of establishing a professional resident company here in town. We are so fortunate to have the Plan-B Theatre Company of Salt Lake to come here, for this is the caliber of professionals we want to attract to Moab to do theatre”. Mr. Malluk, a Theatre Consultant for the Utah State Arts Council, has a vision of developing a Performing Arts Center in Moab encompassing theatre, dance and music. “Yes, I have big dreams,” he says. “Right now we are in the beginning stages of taking one step at a time to create the market to make things happen. The Arts are beginning to boom in Moab, and the time is ripe. People come into town for the Moab Music Festival, the Moab Folk Festival and the Moab Arts Festival. The list goes on and on. I know we can attract people to come to Moab for Theatre as well and become the driving force in the Performing Arts for the southeast region of Utah. Our goal is getting a professional theatre company off the ground and sponsoring EXPOSED is step one in making that happen.”

EXPOSED explores the human consequences of our nuclear history. The entire state of Utah was downwind of most of the 928 nuclear bombs the U.S. government exploded in the Nevada desert between 1951 and 1992. The play is touring Cache, Weber, Grand, San Juan and Washington Counties because they all received fallout from nuclear testing, according to various scientific records.  Washington County, which ranked number one in the nation in terms of fallout, is eligible for compensation, as is San Juan County.  Yet, Grand County, which is adjacent to San Juan County and received equal levels of fallout, is not covered by the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act. Both Cache and Weber Counties also were subject to high levels of radiation. Weber County, in fact, received more fallout than did Grand and San Juan Counties, according to Richard Miller’s U.S. Atlas of Nuclear Fallout, 1951-1962, Vol. 1 Total Fallout. Because the play is intensely personal and affects audience members on a visceral level, it has been an amazingly effective tool in raising public awareness about the tragic human effects of the nuclear arms race and atomic testing. The entire state was downwind, so it is appropriate that the play is traveling statewide. And due to a generous grant from the Compton Foundation, the Plan-B Theatre Company and the ACME Theatre Company, Inc. are able to bring it to Moab as a free staged reading.

Playwright Mary Dickson is a Downwinder and award-winning writer. She has worked tirelessly to raise public awareness of what fallout from atomic testing did to Americans living downwind of the Nevada Test Site. She has written widely on the subject and speaks at symposia, conferences and classrooms around the country and, most recently, Japan. Mary is also the host of Contact on KUED.

“I didn’t start out to write a play. I was writing a book about the human consequences of nuclear testing that blended my own story as a downwinder with powerful documentation. I had been invited to spend a month as a writer-in-residence at the Mesa Refuge in Point Reyes, California to work on a manuscript. Then, I met actress/activist Mimi Kennedy, who was in Salt Lake to speak at a political fundraiser. I told her about my thyroid cancer and my work on behalf of downwinders. I showed her my manuscript. She was so moved by what she read, she was speechless. “I want you to write a play,” she said. “Tell your truth.”

That night I started writing EXPOSED. In many ways I’ve been working on this play all my life. I am one of countless Americans who suffered the consequences of exposure to radioactive fallout from nuclear testing. I was 29 when I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. My older sister died of an autoimmune disease. In the Salt Lake City neighborhood where we grew up, more than 54 people got sick or died from fallout-related illnesses. We believed our government when they assured us, “There is no danger.” From 1951 to 1992 the U.S. government exploded 928 nuclear bombs at the Nevada Test Site. “

Part memoir, part oral history and part journalistic investigation, EXPOSED puts a human face on what happened to an unsuspecting population. The play follows two sisters: Mary, a writer, and Ann, a stay-at-home mother. Beginning in 1985 when Mary is in the hospital after cancer surgery, the play follows the sisters through their struggles with their illnesses, their support for each other, their discovery of the government’s betrayal and what caused their diseases, their fight to expose the truth and their determination not to let the mistakes of the past be repeated.

As part of her journalistic investigation in the play, Mary meets and interviews downwinders, activists and experts across the country and here in Utah, including Michelle Thomas and Elizabeth Bruhn Catalan of St. George. Scenes with the two sisters are juxtaposed with such interviews as well as scenes taken from declassified minutes of Atomic Energy Commission meetings and testimony from government hearings, showing the web of government lies and cover-ups. Rather than leave audiences feeling a sense of despair, the play gives hope and inspires action by showing the successful grassroots efforts of individuals working to keep history from repeating itself.  

EXPOSED played to sold-out houses and rave reviews during its world premiere at Plan-B Theatre in Salt Lake City last October. Added performances sold out almost immediately, with people coming from Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Baltimore, Las Vegas, Seattle, Florida, Idaho and Alaska to see the production.

The production was nominated for the American Theatre Critics Association/Steinberg Award for Best New Play Produced Outside New York in 2007. The Deseret News named it “Best Drama 2007” and Salt Lake City Weekly named it “Best Original Play 2008.” The Chicago Tribune syndicate called the Salt Lake City production “A sacrament of grief and anger that doesn’t stop at the edge of the stage or end with the actors’ bows. Be careful. It gets under the skin and into the marrow…devastating drama that deserves a national audience.” 

Dickson continues: “I wrote EXPOSED to tell my truth and to shed light on the civilians who unwittingly became the forgotten casualties of the Cold War. As Michelle Thomas says in the play, “we were veterans of a war, but no one will ever fold a flag over our coffins when we die.”

The play ends with a roll call of those I know who have died. The actors read their names one by one, ending with my sister’s name. During the play’s world premiere run and at subsequent staged readings, audience members were invited to add names of family and friends they lost to fallout-related illnesses on a mural at the back of the theatre. The list of names has tripled since its premiere. Stories and more stories come forward.”

As a writer, I know the power of words, and while the pen may be mightier than the sword, the eraser is mightier still. By bringing my very personal story to life and combining it with historical facts, I want to ensure that our stories will not be erased. EXPOSED both bears witness and serves as warning while memorializing those who have not survived. If we learned anything from being the unwitting subjects of the massive experiment of atomic testing, it is that we all live downwind.”

EXPOSED features actors Kirt Bateman, Joyce Cohen, Teri Cowan, Mark Fossen, Teresa Sanderson and Jason Tatom. Stage Managed by Jennifer Freed. Directed by Jerry Rapier. For more information on the Plan-B Theatre Company and EXPOSED log on to: http://planbtheatre.org/exposedtour

“Our hope is that this powerful theatre event, which Plan-B and ACME are able to gift to Moab, will create interest in the community to support more professional theatre here,” says Mr. Malluk. ACME Theatre Company, Inc. has plans to mount its first production in the near future and is looking to partner with entrepreneurs, business associates and angels to share in this vision of professional theatre in Moab. Contact Paul Malluk at 435-259-5852 and be sure to mention you read it in Moab Happenings.
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