Making a Disaster: the many deaths of John Wayne (2005)

Created by Marianne M. Kim and Lee Anne Schmitt
Performances by Esther Baker Tarpaga and Kevin Kane
Video by Lee Anne Schmitt
Choreography by Marianne M. Kim

Making a Disaster the many deaths of John Wayne contemplates the history of the United State’s nuclear testing program, to contemplate not only the remnants of history, but also the ideas of home and safety, threat and security. This multimedia project considers the circuitry of time and history through a collaboration between performance and film, based around the creation of the American West, both mythic and real.

This piece in particular examines a coincidence of history, the moment when the fallout from a particularly dirty nuclear test drifted and overwhelmed both the town of St. George, Utah, and the set of the film The Conqueror, a Howard Hughes movie based on the life of Genghis Khan.  Ninety-one members of the cast and crew end up developing cancer, including its star John Wayne, the icon of American health and independent spirit.

Informed of the accident, a member of the Department of Defense is said to have exclaimed, “Oh God, please don’t have us killed John Wayne.”