ST. SAM AND THE NUKES: A NUCLEAR COMEDY
Volume 11 Number 1.
Ted Johns was born in Seaforth, Ontario and educated at the University of Toronto. He has been a professional actor since 1973. As a writer, he is best known for his one-man play, The School Show, about the Huron County teachers' strike, and for Naked on the North Shore, a tale of Labrador filmed for TV Ontario. Johns now lives in Blyth where St. Sam and the Nukes was first produced in 1980 for the summer festival there.
The story centres around a conflict of belief in the inherent values versus the feared consequences of nuclear power development and implementation. The action is minimal, and it focuses mainly on the home and office of the major proponent of the benefits of nuclear power, Howard, and his wife Joan. They met when she wrote her thesis on atomic energy and she was the "first woman Howard ever met who had even heard of the neutron, let alone had an opinion about it." Unfortunately, Howard slights her interest and knowledge during a television interview, and she is beginning to doubt his public relations talk about safety features. While Howard is busy extolling the virtues of nuclear power in speeches, she is left at home to ponder his veracity.
His niece Holly lives with them and works at the plant as a tour guide. She too has begun to question the safety factors as she is constantly queried by visitors about Three Mile Island, the potential for accidents, and some third world countries who have developed reactors and armaments with Canadian technology.
She is attracted to fellow worker Paul, who moves from commitment to his job to flippant comments such as "Man doth not live by Ontario Hydro alone," to wondering if "maybe there's something about nuclear that divides people."
Certainly in this play there is. Howard soliloquizes near the end about his lost good intentions and searches fruitlessly for some praise for his attempts to be true to his beliefs. Joan sadly announces that Holly can no longer deal with the conflicting ideals and she has smashed the television set, another symbol of advancing technology. She has been keeping a diary and noted some of Howard's bon mots long ago when he was "young and beautiful and very clever."
Paul resigns to join Sam, the idealist, who has plans for development of tomato gardens and canning factories around the power station using the excess steam produced by the reactor. His saintly view of using the power to have the best of both worlds, despite the anti-nuke sentiments of others, parallels that of a real person Johns knows who lives and works in Kincardine and whose dreams and frustrations are similar to Sam's. He sees potential good rather than imminent destruction.
Although meant as a comedy, the laughs are few and often sarcastic, black and pessimistic. Certainly this is attributable to the subject matter; however, the School Show and the Farm Show also deal with serious topics and yet prove more entertaining and develop character and plot much more successfully.
The play is short and easily staged by theatre arts students. Sets and props are simple, and scenes could be produced independent of each other. The cast is small.
The play might be useful in a collection of Canadian drama to show the breadth of subject matter tackled by our playwrights. It might be resource for a multi-disciplinary study of Canada's energy policy or crisis.
Linda May Bell, Wellington County Board of Education, Guelph, ON.
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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