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"Bella" Collectively written, beginning with an idea from Skye Faris

Why does this story need to be told? by Skye Faris

Nuclear reactors--in research laboratories and power and weapons plants--have since the 1950s been accumulating ever-increasing stores of very radioactive equipment, materials, and especially "used" fuel rods which are too radioactively hot for further use in reactors. There is still no societal consensus about long-term storage for these dangerous materials. 

In 1983, Joanna Macy had a vision of Nuclear Guardianship communities which would provide above-ground monitored storage, training and education about the full story of the nuclear fuel cycle, as well as a moratorium on the production of nuclear weapons and energy. Society has not really connected with this vision.

The vision of Joanna and friends gives us hope that a solution is possible. I offer these one-act plays, set in the future, to encourage us to ponder and explore the vision... adding to it, making it real.

Skye Faris

526 Doyle Mountain Road, RR4

Killaloe, Ontario K0J2A0


BELLA (.pdf download with music.doc download)

Collectively written, beginning with an idea from Skye Faris
Based on the work of Joanna Macy and friends



AQUARIA: Member of a Guardian Community, a woman in her late 30's, early 40's

BELLA: A young woman

TRO: BELLA's father

Scene: a meeting room, some time in the near future, at the first Nuclear Guardian Community built after the signing of the Nuclear Moratorium. The atmosphere is one of peace and dedication to good works, not unlike that of a community garden or a monastery. In the soft light of this relaxing place,

AQUARIA is sweeping the floor and singing to herself in rhythm with the motions of the broom:

O, you who come after,
Help us remember:
We are your ancestors,
We are of you.
Fill us with gladness
For the work that we do.

AQUARIA finishes singing the verse and proceeds with her work, now humming the tune. There is an insistent knock on the door. She opens it, and BELLA rushes in.

AQUARIA: Good morning.

BELLA: [going to the window] Are we safe here?

AQUARIA: Safe from what?

BELLA: Can I sit down? [AQUARIA gestures to a stool, and BELLA collapses onto it.] Water. Can I have some water? [As an afterthought] Please. [As AQUARIA goes to a clay pot and ladles out a glass, BELLA stands and gestures to something outside the window.] Are we safe?

AQUARIA: [handing BELLA the glass] Who are you? What's your name? [AQUARIA realizes that

BELLA can't answer while she is drinking.] We're safer than most people think.

BELLA: This is where you volunteer to be a Guardian, right?


BELLA: How soon can I start?

AQUARIA: Not everyone is accepted, you know. How old are you?

BELLA: I'm sixteen. Old enough to be a Guardian.

AQUARIA: Well, yes [pause] and no. For some Guardian jobs, we accept people that young. If they are sufficiently committed.

BELLA: [with a hint of disappointment] All Guardians don't do the same thing?

AQUARIA: All Guardians are trained in the basics. They learn about our communities and the history of paying close attention . They are taught our prayers, our sacred dances, and our songs to deepen their attention.. And they learn to teach these to other people.

BELLA: Singing and dancing? There must be more to it than that.

AQUARIA: Of course there is. And as I mentioned before, aspiring Guardians must be committed.

BELLA: Committed? Have you any idea what I went through just to get here?

AQUARIA: It takes more than your commitment. Your family must also ... [AQUARIA is interrupted by vigorous hammering on the door. She opens it and is brushed aside by TRO. BELLA quails.]

TRO: [to BELLA] So you are here. I was afraid of that!

BELLA: Why did you follow me? Why can't you leave me alone?

AQUARIA: [to TRO] Who are you?

TRO: [to BELLA] How can you be so thoughtless?

AQUARIA: [to TRO] What do you want, here?

BELLA: Stay away from me.

TRO: You don't know what you're doing.

BELLA: I know what I want.

TRO: Don't you even care about your life?

BELLA: I care about everyone's life.

AQUARIA: [stepping between BELLA and TRO and taking him by the shoulders] Who are you and what do you want.?

TRO: I'm her father.

BELLA: Oh, Dad. I told you I have to do this. My mind is made up. Please go home.

TRO: Why are you so willing to risk your life?

AQUARIA: [to TRO, taking his shoulders again] Are you afraid of bears?

TRO: [unable to believe his ears] What?

AQUARIA: Bears. Do you think they are dangerous?

TRO: What's that got to do with anything?

BELLA: [Helping AQUARIA force TRO to sit on the stool] Just answer the question.

TRO: Well then, no. Or yes. It all depends.

AQUARIA: On what?

TRO: [condescendingly] Well for starts, you can't mess with their personal space.

AQUARIA: Keep a safe distance.

TRO: That's right. Show some respect for a bear's place in nature, and he won't bother you.

BELLA: Bears? Do you keep bears here too?

AQUARIA: [patting her arm] No, dear. We all know what's here, and it's not bears. It's uranium, and we have disturbed its natural state. Our ancestors dug it up, refined it to even more lethal concentrations, and left it for us to deal with...

BELLA: [interrupting] Didn't they do anything to clean up their mess?

AQUARIA: Sure there is a moratorium, but look! Look at those containment vessels outside. The uranium in those vessels won’t be safe for human exposure for countless generations.All we can do is give it a safe resting place, keep a respectful distance, and let it hibernate.

TRO: A safe resting place? People die here!

AQUARIA: It's as safe as we can possibly make it.

TRO: Safe?!

AQUARIA: Every Guardian Community has strictly enforced safety standards.

TRO: [with deep irony] Right!

AQUARIA: We carefully monitor all volunteers for exposure.

TRO: And over-exposure?

AQUARIA: We even have special cement for our containment vessels.

TRO: Awww, I've heard all these arguments before.

AQUARIA: We've had only one accident in all the years that I've been a volunteer.

TRO: Nothing you say can change my mind.

BELLA: This accident? What happened?

AQUARIA: One of the containment vessels started to leak. Something went terribly wrong with the repair and one very brave woman died.

TRO: [to BELLA] That was your mother.

BELLA: Oh Dad. Why didn't you ever tell me what happened?

TRO: I felt partly to blame. I didn't understand why she couldn't just stay home with you and me. Don't you see, Bella? Don't you see why you can't stay here? This place
just isn't safe.

AQUARIA: [to BELLA] Your mother's heroic dedication saved many lives that day.

TRO: I wanted a live wife, not a dead hero.

BELLA: If Mom was committed to this place, then I am too.

TRO: Bella, I forbid it.

BELLA: [to AQUARIA] Make him go away.

AQUARIA: No, it would be better if he stayed.

TRO: You're bloody right I'm staying.

BELLA: [to AQUARIA] Why do you want him here? He'll just cause trouble.

AQUARIA: We never accept volunteers whose families are opposed.

BELLA: Dad, did you agree to let Mom come here?

TRO: You can't remember what she was like. She was stubborn, so stubborn, that finally Igave in.

BELLA: I'm just as determined as she was. Give me your blessing too.

TRO: My blessing to do what? Carry around slop buckets of radioactive waste?

AQUARIA: If that's what you think happens here, we have a lot more work to do educating the public.

BELLA: What did my mother do here?

AQUARIA: Radiation monitoring and repair.

BELLA: Then that's what I want to do.

TRO: Hang on. You mean my wife spent all her time working with radioactive waste?

AQUARIA: Of course not. Monitoring was a small part of her day, and repairs are rarely needed.

BELLA: So what did she...?

AQUARIA: The whole idea behind these Guardian communities is to use something enduring to protect people from the waste that's stored here. That's why we put so much faith in ceremony and ritual. Political elites don't plan for the long term, and engineers? Where are the great buildings of antiquity? Dust and rubble. Don't look for the Lighthouse at Pharos or the Library at Alexandria. They're gone forever. The things that remain, the things that can encourage us to pay attention are the rituals of life. Think of how songs have endured through the ages, and prayers, and wedding ceremonies, and funeral rites.

TRO: OK, wait. Wait just a minute. Suppose, just suppose, I was dumb enough to agree. What things will you do to keep Bella safe?

BELLA: Do you mean it?

TRO: I said “suppose”.

AQUARIA: Well, the first thing we do is check to see if she has already been exposed to too much radiation.

BELLA: Does that take long?

AQUARIA: I can do it right now. [AQUARIA removes a pendant she is wearing, makes an adjustment to it, and places it around BELLA's neck]

BELLA: It's turned yellow. What does that mean?

AQUARIA: I'm sorry.

TRO: What's wrong?

AQUARIA: The disc has turned yellow.

TRO: So?

AQUARIA: So Bella has already been exposed to too much radiation to work here.


TRO: Is she going to die?


AQUARIA: No, no no. Don't worry. The disc is only yellow. It's just a warning.

BELLA: So I can't work here?

AQUARIA: I'm afraid not.

TRO: [collapsing on stool] Thank God! [BELLA simultaneously collapses onto the floor, sobbing with her hands over her face.]

AQUARIA: Please don't be upset. There are many other useful things to do in life.

TRO: Look! When she put her hands up, the disc turned orange.

AQUARIA: [grabbing a bracelet on BELLA's wrist] Take that off!

BELLA: No. It was my mother's. It's all I have to remember her by.

TRO: Where did you get that?

BELLA: I found where you had hidden it. I wear it when I sleep at night.

AQUARIA: [covering her face with her hands] When you did this, it turned the disc orange.

TRO: They told me to bury it with your mother, but I couldn't. Now look at what I've done.

AQUARIA: [removing the bracelet] Let me find a safe place for that.

TRO: [to Bella] This work was very important to you, wasn't it.

BELLA: More than anything.

TRO: [taking the disc from her and putting it around his neck] I guess you won't be needing this any more.

BELLA: What are you doing?

TRO: I loved her too, you know. And I can honour her memory for both of us.

BELLA: But I want to do something?

AQUARIA: Maybe you can.

BELLA: What ?

AQUARIA: I spend most of my time away from this place, working as a community educator.

BELLA: Could I do that?

AQUARIA: You certainly seem to have the commitment.

BELLA: How soon can I start?

TRO: How soon can we start?

AQUARIA: You can start right now by learning the Hymn for a Thousand Years.

[AQUARIA takes their hands and form a circle. She leads them through the song, line by line as they look at each other. Then they break the circle, walk to the front of the stage, and sing the whole song to the audience.]

O, you who come after,
Help us remember:
We are your ancestors,
We are of you.
Fill us with gladness
For the work that we do.


See music for Hymn for a Thousand Years music on the .PDF version of this page.