Groups showing 'The Day After' as reminder of nuclear threat

Lawrence residents reminded of involvement in 1983 made-for-TV movie

"The Day After" is in for some local reruns.

More than 20 years after thousands of Lawrence residents appeared as extras in the film depicting the town after a nearby nuclear blast, area groups will have two public screenings this week.

"We thought it was time to show it again," said Allan Hanson, coordinator of the Lawrence Coalition for Peace and Justice.

The 1983 film "The Day After" was predominantly shot in Lawrence. The made-for-TV movie also shows two hydrogen bombs leveling Kansas City and a bewildered horde of survivors straggling into Lawrence.

There is no special reason for showing the film this week. The groups simply wanted to remind people that nuclear weapons are an increasing threat, Hanson said.

The movie will be shown Wednesday evening at Kansas University and Thursday evening at Liberty Hall.

The KU student political group Delta Force is sponsoring the Wednesday showing, and the Lawrence Coalition for Peace and Justice is sponsoring the Thursday showing.

The public also can gather Sunday afternoon at Unity Church of Lawrence to discuss the film and nuclear weapons.

More countries have nuclear weapons now than in 1983, and terrorists could get some of those weapons, Hanson said.

"The nuclear threat remains a very grave one," he said.

"The Day After" portrays Allen Fieldhouse filled with wounded people, mushroom clouds over Kansas City and many Lawrence residents made up to appear horribly injured or dead.

Half the adult population of the United States saw the film - the largest audience for a made-for-TV-movie at that time.

KU anthropology professor Donald Stull worked as an extra in the movie for a day, getting a free lunch and about $25.

"Gosh, that's been so long ago," he said Monday. "I was one of the survivors of the bomb. We were walking around looking destitute and haggard and stuff like that."

Judy Wright, director of the major donor organization within the KU Endowment Association, said her whole family participated in the filming. Her husband, Jack, was casting director for the extras; her daughter was a supporting character.

"It's a very sobering feeling when you see those scenes, and so much has been demolished," Judy Wright said of the movie.

Wright said she appeared as a visitor in an art museum before the nuclear strikes.

The screenings - 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Kansas Union and 7 p.m. Thursday at Liberty Hall - are free, but donations are requested.

A panel and discussion will follow 2 p.m. Sunday at Unity Church of Lawrence, 900 Madeline Lane.

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