Production Blog

A behind the scenes peek at rehearsals, artistic choices, artist interviews, and the daily business of running a theatre.

Background information for THE CHILDREN

This dramaturgical information was compiled by our intern Nic McMinn.

Nuclear Inspiration

The fictional nuclear disaster in the play is copied closely from a real-life disaster in the Fukushima area of Japan. On March 11, 2011, an earthquake struck off the coast of Japan and sent a 45-foot tsunami to the Daiichi nuclear plant. The reactors automatically went offline for safety.

Quick note on nuclear reactors: the nuclear reaction is kept in check a number of ways. One of the most important is a constant flow of cool water around them to keep them from over heating and melting down. Water pumps are needed to send the water around the reactor, and those pumps run on electricity. 

When the plant stopped producing electricity because the reactors went offline, the water pumps were fed electricity by diesel generators. These were housed in the basement of the power plant. The tsunami submerged the generators, killing them. Without electricity, the pumps turned off, and the reactors were no longer cooled by water. Consequently, several of the reactors melted down and sent some of their radiation into the surrounding area. 

A 20-km exclusion zone was set up at first, but it was expanded to 30-km. This area remains essentially abandoned and uninhabitable. As of 2018, a third of the displaced population remains refugees. This disaster is the only other “Level 7” nuclear incident besides Chernobyl.


Radiation exposure is measured in millisieverts. Everyone receives a little bit from cosmic radiation and random tiny radioactive atoms in soil. The average amount of annual exposure is 2.4 millisiverts. The exposure levels described on pg. 27 of the script (pg 20 of the pdf) of 100 millisieverts to 250 millisieverts are indeed dangerous. The temporary raised level to 250 that Rose describes mirrors the exposure the Fukushima workers experienced.

A Town Swallowed by the Sea

The “lost town” swallowed by sea mentioned several times throughout the script is a direct reference to Dunwich. This was a busy seaside town that was eventually lost to the North Sea due to erosion eating away the shore. From 1066-1086, the town lost half of its farmable land. It remained a successful fishing town after that but continually shrank. It is gone today; the last piece of the last church could be seen at low tide in the 1970s. Local legend says that the bells of the churches can be heard at certain tides.
Here is a postcard of All Saints church from 1904. You can see how the land is disappearing into the sea on the left:



First photo on this page:  IAEA experts depart Unit 4 of TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station on 17 April 2013 as part of a mission to review Japan's plans to decommission the facility. Photo Credit: Greg Webb / IAEA

A chat with Kelsey Milbourn about the legacy

Q: Ada had an astounding impact on the advancement of computer programming, and we interact with her work every day through our phones or television or computers. Can you talk a bit about what it’s like to portray a woman who actually lived and give voice to her when many may not know who she is? And how do you strike a balance between honoring both what we know about the real Ada and also Lauren Gunderson’s version of her?

A: Getting to portray an intelligent progressive woman nearly buried by history has been an honor and a thrill.

In current day, seeing women coming forward and leaving a mark on history seems a new idea. In some ways it is. But despite the constant shushing and silencing of the male-dominated world we live in, women have ALWAYS been making waves, moving mountains, and changing the world. Amelia Earhart, Rosa Parks, Marie Curie, Harriet Tubman, Joan of Arc, Susan B Anthony, Anne Frank, Queen Victoria, Sojourner Truth, Sacajawea, Eleanor Roosevelt, Grace Cooper, Naomi Parker, Margaret Sanger, Jane Goodall, Indira Gandhi, Shirley Chisholm, Sally Ride, Henrietta Leavitt, Ching Shih — the list truly is endless. Ada is among them as the first human to create binary code. She died so young it makes me wonder what else she could’ve invented.

What I love about Ada and how Lauren (the playwright) has given her such life is that she had a bad ‘past’, bad health, bad ‘decorum’ and STILL she created something beyond most of what society could even DREAM of. Of course, when writing a play, you can only reveal a story of humanity and kindness and genius in just an hour and forty-five minutes, something to help the audience empathize and recognize their own humanity in a short time. Lauren has taken bits and pieces of a crazy time in history surrounding a protege genius who could have a 5 hour play about her life and still not cover all that her and her family went through during this time-not to mention her very famous father, the epic poet Lord Byron. Even still, Lauren captures the simplicity of how a human with a mind of a computer can love, be loved, and navigate her way through the time she was given to leave an imprint that changed the course of history forever. I think of Ada and thank her for the world of communication, advancement, and over all connection she has given us. Her difference on the world has taken us from zero to one and beyond.

I hope you read about her. I hope you come see a play about her. I hope you look up all those women I mentioned before-especially the ones you’ve never heard of. As you look them up, think of Ada and the chance she has given you to gain knowledge, to communicate with your loved ones, to progress yourself into the future, where Ada believed we as humans could better the world with her ideas. Let’s prove her right.

A moment with Director Emily Scott Banks about the inception

Q: Audiences have come to know you as a staple at Stage West - both on and off stage. As a director, can you talk a bit about your process and how you arrive at your vision - from initial thoughts about the script to design concepts to staging? And is there any aspect of this process that has been unique?

A: My process, as it were, is always inspired and described by the unique qualities of each text – which completely vary from script to script. However, initially I always begin by asking what I perceive as the playwright’s intention with the piece, and do I resonate with that and feel I have a way to tell it that inspires larger emotions in me; passions, joy or even fear. (Sometimes the latter is oddly the most inspiring.) Then, once I have read the script, and sat with myself in quiet, I ask from as ego-less a place as I can, “Why should I be a part of this story? What can I bring to it? How can I helm this in a way that might have meaning for an audience?” If I feel there is an answer that reverberates positively, I proceed. Additionally, if images, emotions and challenges start firing in my brain from first reads of the script, and then I cannot stop thinking about them, I am passionate about proceeding. After that, I always strive to suit my approach and style to the individual needs of the script. If it’s an Aaron Posner meta-theatrical piece, I highlight the theatrical seams and go for the unadorned emotional truth. If it’s a language-driven classic, like An Iliad, it all depends on the rhythm and poetry of the language, and how to honor that but keep it alive and connected to an immediate humanity. If it’s a period piece like Ada and the Engine, I want to remove the barriers of time between the humans of Then and the humans of Now. However, always, always I respond to the music and rhythms and movement…and these are unique to each text. Finally, I never want to insert myself in an overt way between the text and the audience – instead I want to remove those doors and barriers.