Monday, January 31, 2011

Copenhagen in the Daily Bruin!

Well, Copenhagen has opened and closed, and we got a nice writeup in the Daily Bruin!

I'll post some more official photos from the show once I get them from the photographer.


UCLA students enact a conversation about nuclear research just before World War II in play ‘Copenhagen”

Published January 27, 2011 in A&E, Theater & Arts

Just as the chaos of World War II was about to break out in Europe, two friends and colleagues sat down to have a conversation in Copenhagen, Denmark, about the future of nuclear research.

Michael Frayn’s award-winning dramatization of the night’s events, “Copenhagen,” is being presented tonight by the UCLA theater department. Directing the play is Alex Levy, a candidate for a master’s in fine arts in directing.

“The play is about how collisions in history force us to decide what kind of world we’re going to have and what kind of world we’re going to live in,” Levy said.

Before beginning the MFA program at UCLA, Levy directed a theater company in Chicago. He returned to school after a 10-year hiatus to give himself the opportunity to experiment.

“I had a great company in Chicago, and I was very proud to work there and be a part of it, but as an artist, you’re always looking to stretch and to see what else you can do and to try new things,” Levy said.

Levy’s interest in “Copenhagen” arose out of the idea that nuclear physicists held the power to either improve or destroy the world. According to Levy, the play does not pass judgment so much as explore the way that man’s actions force decisions on the fate of the world.

“Copenhagen” is structured around the 1941 meeting between Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr, two leaders in atomic research. Though the conversation is shrouded in mystery, it is believed that Heisenberg said something about the ability to create nuclear weapons, but the specifics of that conversation, as well as Bohr’s response, are unknown, Levy said.

“What is historically known is that in 1941, Werner Heisenberg came to occupied Denmark to have a conversation with Niels Bohr,” Levy said. “What was said during that conversation is the leaping-off point for this play.”

The play follows a non-linear format. It jumps around chronologically between various important moments in Heisenberg and Bohr’s relationship.

“We go through different parts of history that illuminate what these two men went through,” said Jake Rude, a third-year student who plays Niels Bohr. “We actually start in 1941 and then we’ll jump to 1947 and then we’ll go back to 1922, and it just bounces all over the place.”

The play centers around the evolving relationship among three historical figures: Werner Heisenberg, played by third-year Robert Rushin; Niels Bohr, played by Rude; and Bohr’s wife Margrethe, played by fourth-year Heather Kellogg. All three are theater students with acting concentrations.

Though Bohr and Heisenberg are the major historical figures in the play, Margrethe Bohr’s character is just as prominent as the men in the play.

Kellogg said she is an observer who pushes thoughts through to the other characters. Her character works to remind the men of the rough patches in their relationship.

“My relationship with Heisenberg is that he was someone that came into our house and worked with Niels but … it wasn’t a good time. A lot of great physics came out of it, but it was (a time of) jealousy and tears,” Kellogg said.

As the only actors in the play, much of “Copenhagen’s” success lies with Rude, Rushin and Kellogg. These roles depend on the actors’ abilities to handle being on stage for the entire play and perform on many different levels because the three must carry the play, Levy said.

“It’s quite a challenge for actors who are decades into their careers to pull off these roles, so for these three young actors, it’s really amazing watching them take on the challenge,” Levy said.

Part of the difficulty of portraying these characters lies in the pressure the script puts on the actors to represent jumps in time. Though the play covers several decades, there are no costume changes, no dramatic make-up changes or any attempts to age the characters.

“It’s not necessarily about the physical transformation from time to time, because this whole show is kind of a memory play. It’s all taking place in this unexplained, amorphous environment. It really comes down to our understanding of it emotionally, not necessarily physically,” Rushin said.

“Copenhagen” is also about exploring morality. Bohr and Heisenberg both worked extensively on atomic research – Heisenberg was ostracized for his research done for the Nazis, and Bohr worked with the American team that created the first atomic bomb. The play explores the way people determine right and wrong.

“I think what (the play) does is ask us questions that show us the way morality is judged is relative,” Levy said. “I think it challenges us to examine the world more than tells us where to go.”


Jan. 27-29 at 8 p.m. and Jan. 29 at 2 p.m.
Freud Playhouse, FREE

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