The current dying of Joseph Hazelwood, the captain of the Exxon Valdez, serves as an necessary reminder to Alaskans of the devastation of the 1989 oil spill catastrophe.
Playwright Dick Reichman’s play, “The Massive One,” written 20 years later, was a part of Cyrano’s season celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of statehood. There have been 5 world premieres by Alaska playwrights spotlighting numerous parts of Alaska’s historical past. Dick’s commissioned task was to write down about black gold, as oil has performed such a central half in current Alaska historical past.
Oil has each plagued and enriched all of us who name Alaska dwelling. Are you able to blame us if we’ve got blended emotions concerning the storehouse of pure assets which might be ours, in addition to the present fossil gas disaster for which we’re entrance row middle for witnessing Alaska’s contribution to local weather change?
I hope we’ve realized classes concerning the fragility of our ecosystems and improved our oil response know-how. It was 20 years after the spill that plaintiffs even started to obtain cash from the traumatic and aggravating litigation, however at a fraction of the unique judgment. For the remainder of us, the spill is a cautionary story concerning the excessive price of complacency and neglect and honest warning of the perils of laying aside catastrophe planning for one more day.
We hoped our play moved individuals to motion. And as John Devens, Sr., govt director of Prince William Sound Regional Citizen’ Advisory Council, or PWSRCAC, stated, “The legal guidelines and laws that had been handed after the Exxon Valdez spill are highly effective instruments, however they’re simply instruments. They’re solely as efficient because the individuals who use them. We who had been round for the spill have used them with nice ardour and, we really feel, with appreciable success for 20 years now. However the time shouldn’t be far off after we’ll want to put them in new fingers to hold on the job of creating certain that future generations of Alaskans don’t have to search out out the laborious method what we realized in 1989.”
In Dick Reichman’s director notes, he said, “Who’s in charge for the Exxon Valdez spill? The press and public had straightforward solutions, a drunk tanker captain and the anti-environment bosses at Exxon. However in charge people is to overlook the purpose; the precise villain was a cascade of cost-cutting measures taken by authorities and trade in any respect ranges. A cheaply regulated, cheaply run, and cheaply maintained operation is an accident ready to occur. However ours is a profit-driven system; cheapness is inspired. Staff in all places are given incentives to chop price, to do the flawed issues, typically harmful and lethal issues. We have to change our system. To encourage individuals to do the suitable issues as an alternative. However it’s simpler simply in charge people.”
Dawnell Smith summed it up this manner: “The layering of tales and scenes fits the subject material as a result of the spill concerned not only one lapse in judgment however many; the tragedy performed out not simply within the Sound however in board rooms and houses and fishing boats and bars and courtrooms. The script touches on the litany of shortcuts and errors resulting in the spill. The corporate slashes its labor price range, the captain drinks yet another spherical, the response gear by no means will get purchased or maintained. The Coast Guard downgrades its radar system, the vast majority of individuals flip a blind eye to the shortage of oversight. Reichman throws out knowledge. 10,000 individuals bought jobs mopping up the spill and two-thirds of them filed medical claims. However he lets his characters change into actual human beings. ‘The Massive One’ actually succeeds in turning the Exxon Valdez into documentary theater value seeing.”
Whereas the concept of manufacturing a play on the spill didn’t sound like an excellent theater wager at first, Reichman stated he needed to write down it anyway as an exploration into the complexity of company versus human values. It explored the query of whether or not a for-profit operation can preserve us secure if it’s at all times reducing prices and anxious about income.
Playwright Reichman had moved to Valdez in 1987 and was working as a bartender on the time of the spill. He heard lots of the tales firsthand. He labored on a cleanup crew following the spill. Then he moved on to public radio shortly after that and spent the subsequent 10 years speaking about it. The dialogue and energetic scenes are frequently accompanied by quick narratives explaining court docket findings, science and curiosities like the truth that, in contrast to different ships, tankers are typically known as “he.” Even supposing we all know how this ends from begin to end, theatricality was tautly dramatic.
Cyrano’s additionally carried out the play on the Pratt Museum in Homer, which was having a serious retrospective present concerning the oil spill and the influence of the oil trade in Alaska.
Riki Ott, a personality portrayed within the play, was a marine toxicologist and former business fisherwoman who witnessed firsthand the ecological destruction and social chaos of the Exxon Valdez spill. She turned an “unintentional activist” in its wake. Ott was instrumental in supporting the neighborhood via the method of creating tips for dispersant use in Prince William Sound and the primary Citizen Advisory Council in Alaska post-spill to enhance oil trade oversite and oil spill preparation and response. Riki was a voice for holding the oil trade and state accountable.
Simply earlier than the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Riki offered earlier than the Valdez mayor’s committee on behalf of United Fishermen of Alaska a chat she had given six weeks earlier on the Worldwide Oil Spill Convention in Texas.
Congress and regulators ordered main reforms after the Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef in 1989 spilling almost 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound. Different oil spills have exceeded the Exxon Valdez catastrophe in sheer dimension. Greater than 200 million gallons of oil poured into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 from the broken rig, BP’s Deepwater Horizon, however the environmental hurt alongside Alaska’s almost pristine shoreline and coves was close to whole in some locations and on full show as one of many largest ecological disasters in U.S. historical past.
“Had a spill the extent of the Exxon Valdez catastrophe occurred off the US east coast, the devastation would have stretched from Cape Cod to Chesapeake Bay,” wrote Walter Parker, head of the Alaska Oil Spill Fee in 1990.
Cyrano’s manufacturing, “The Massive One,” was filmed and nonetheless out there on Vimeo.
Sandy Harper was the co-founder of Cyrano’s Off-Heart Playhouse and was producing creative director for Cyrano’s Theatre Firm.
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