by Ashton Cynthia Clarke
I Zoom’ed in to SAC’s Historical Stories show on April 20 to learn more about the genre. Perhaps this was an area into which I might expand. Watching Lee Amatangelo tell “The Day the Sun Rose Twice,” I felt like I was sitting at the feet of a master. Well, from my living room couch, anyway.
From the beginning—and I mean starting with the SAC host’s introduction—Lee completely cloaked himself in his main character, the so-called “father of the atomic bomb.” As “Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer” he carries us through the day of the first successful test detonation of an atom bomb, July 16, 1945, in the New Mexico desert.
I love it when a story sends me to Google to research details and educate myself about subjects new to me. Through detailed and sometimes humorous anecdotes, “Oppenheimer” name-drops his colleagues in the Manhattan Project, bringing them to life with colorful description and character voices. These include Ken Bainbridge, described as “one of the gentlest of scientists”; George Kistiakowsky, who’s a betting man; and General Leslie Groves, a “very big man” with “his typical gruff voice.”
He pulls out a pipe at one point, “as I often would do.” Comparing himself to General Groves, “Oppenheimer” lets us know that he himself was a mere “5 foot 10 and 120 pounds.”
Now if I were a bona fide theater reviewer, I might presume that Lee was using the Konstantin Stanislavski method of acting, where understanding the world of your character is absolutely vital in providing a believable performance. But I’m not. So I’ll just tell you that Lee had me engrossed with his portrayal!
Lee hits us with some well-placed gems in language, such as the “blinding brilliance of the blast.” He illustrates the bomb’s mushroom cloud in feet and color by color.
His lighting was effective and I really appreciated the totally blank, near-white background. Lee performed in the center of his stage, but used his hand and arm gestures to fill the space more than half the time.
And Lee, where the heck did you find a slide rule in this day and age?!
There are other well-placed surprises in this story and I’m not going to tease any more. To see the replay, go to the Storytelling Association of California on YouTube. Look for “Genre Series Historical Stories Apr 20 2022.” Or here’s the direct link: https:// youtu.be/2fH0jif6IUY
The show includes several storytellers, but if you’d like to enjoy Lee first—including must-see intro—then fast-forward to 39:36. Way to represent StoryMasters, Lee Amatangelo!
Ashton Cynthia Clarke has been telling true, personal stories since 2019. She became a member of StoryMasters in February 2021.