This play of Michael Frayn, the recipient of numerous awards in Britain and the U.S., including the Tony Award for Best Play 2000, is a compelling dramatic exploration of history, physics, ethics, politics, and friendship. Copenhagen is an explosive re-imagining of the mysterious wartime meeting between two physics Nobel laureates to discuss the atomic bomb. It is based on an actual event in history - an event involving two old friends who revolutionized physics but who, in later years, find themselves on opposite sides of World War II.
Werner Heisenberg, then in charge of nuclear development for the Nazis, made a strange trip to occupied-Copenhagen to see his Danish/Jewish friend and colleague, Niels Bohr. Their collaborations had revolutionized physics in the 1920s. But now the world had changed, and the two friends were on opposite sides in a world war. The meeting was fraught with danger and awkwardness. Heisenberg's reasons for his trip to Copenhagen and what he wanted to say to Bohr are questions that have plagued historians ever since. Nobody alive actually knows why Heisenberg asked for the meeting or what was said.
Playwright Frayn has Heisenberg's meeting with Bohr and his wife, Margrethe, take place long after the three are dead, to once again look for the answers and to work out how we ever know why we do what we do. Heisenberg always maintained that he had deliberately led the German program into concentrating on peaceful uses of atomic energy, like reactors. But did he? Or, was he trying to extract from Bohr information about Allied bomb efforts? Or did he simply wish to ask his old mentor whether physicists were morally justified in applying their knowledge to weapons?
Frayn does not pretend to solve the mystery: he replays three interpretations of what could have happened in that meeting. While the content of the meeting is left to the viewer's decision, we do know that something terrible happened between the two friends, which destroyed their relationship for the rest of their lives.
Along with the scientific issues, there is an extremely passionate interrelation of the three characters: the friendship and colleague relationship that was destroyed, a marriage\partnership that survived the loss of two children and the devastating effects of fleeing one's homeland in the middle of the night to survive Nazi occupancy.
Also, at the core of the story is the issue of who can or should possess nuclear power, as relevant today as then.
* * * * *"Copenhagen" Awards:
Drama Desk Award Outstanding New Play "Copenhagen" 2000
Outer Critics Circle Award Best Play "Copenhagen" 2000
Tony Best Play Award "Copenhagen" 2000
New York Drama Critics Circle Award Best Foreign Play "Copenhagen" 1999
Evening Standard Award Best Play "Copenhagen" 1998
London Drama Critics' Circle Theatre Award Best Play "Copenhagen" 1998
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jerelyn c gilstrap
New York City
Since her move to Shreveport, Ms. Gilstrap has directed A.R. Gurney's Ancestral Voices at East Bank Theatre in Bossier City, Louisiana, and last year, created a staged play reading series in collaboration with Robert Alford, Department of Communications, Louisiana State University Shreveport [LSUS]. The series will continue through the 2009-2010 season in the new LSUS Black Box Theatre.
Her current project, Copenhagen, is scheduled to open in September 2009, also at the LSUS Black Box Theatre.
D.C. venues where her work has been presented include:
Washington Project for the Arts,
New Arts Theatre
American Sum Times Theatre and Dance Place
as well as
Dixon Place Studio in New York City
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Directorial credits include:
Silence, Landscape and Night (Pinter)
The Sanctity of Marriage (Mamet)
The Miracle Worker (Gibson) and
Strange Snow (Metcalfe)
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Additionally, she has often collaborated with artists of other disciplines:
Her collaboration with choreographer Lloyd Whitmore on
Joseph Chaikin's Re-Arrangements
won second place in
Source Theatre's Summer Festival.
She collaborated withinternationally recognized visual artist
on several productions and
directed and produced two videos about Mr. Gilliam
for the U.S. State Department's Culture Program.
One of the videos accompanied his installation that
traveled to galleries around the world.
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Ms. Gilstrap is the recipient of several
Individual Artist grants from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities.
She was on the Theatre Department faculty of the
Duke Ellington School of the Arts for several years and was
Artistic Director of Visions Theatre in D.C.
[with partner, Jewel Robinson]
for two consecutive seasons.
She has often written about theatre for the
Washington Review of the Arts.