"Reykjavik" at American Physical Society

"Reykjavik" at American Physical Society

The actors and director of the staged reading with Federation of American Scientists President Charles Ferguson (right).

On January 29, the American Physical Society (APS) organized a stage reading of AHF Board Member Richard Rhodes's play "Reykjavik" at the APS Meeting in Washington, DC. AHF's Alexandra Levy and Nathaniel Weisenberg attended the event.

"Reykjavik" portrays the October 1986 summit in Iceland between U.S. President Ronald Reagan (David Bryan Jackson) and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev (Al Twanmo). Unexpectedly, the two leaders came close to reaching an agreement to eliminate nuclear weapons. While the Reykjavik summit was called a "failure" because Reagan and Gorbachev did not reach a deal, numerous historians consider it an important step in ending the Cold War.

Rhodes's play is based on both the U.S. and Soviet minutes from the conference. It features only two characters, Reagan and Gorbachev, who spend most of the time seated around a conference table. They argue over thorny issues such as the Strategic Defense Initiative, which ultimately prevented the two sides from reaching an agreement. However, the two leaders clearly develop a personal bond, sharing stories from their childhoods and laying the groundwork for future negotiations. At the end of the play, both leaders face the press - and the audience - with a mixture of disappointment and hope.

After the performance, both actors, director Kelsey Phelps, and Charles Ferguson, President of the Federation of American Scientists, participated in a talkback with the audience. The panel discussed how they recreated the drama of the Reykjavik summit and its relevance for today. With tense US-Russian relations and continued concerns about nuclear weapons, "Reykjavik" is certainly timely. AHF congratulates APS and the Tonic Theater Company on a terrific performance.