‘Copenhagen’ paves way to Camden Conference

Dec 28, 2012
Rehearsing “Copenhagen” for its Midcoast run of stage readings are, from left, Peter Conant, Elisabeth Goodridge and Dean Jorgenson.

With a staged reading of the British playwright Michael Frayn’s 2000 Tony Award-winning play “Copenhagen,” this year’s Camden Conference community event series expands into a lively examination of the origins of the nuclear dilemma in the Middle East through a window on the science and moral dilemmas of the physicists whose discoveries led to the development of the atom bomb during World War II.

“Copenhagen” will be presented Thursday, Jan. 10 at 6:30 p.m. at Jonathan Frost Gallery, 21 Winter St., Rockland; Sunday, Jan. 20 at 2 p.m. at Belfast’s Unitarian Universalist Church; and Sunday, Jan. 27 at 2 p.m. at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockport. Admission is free.

In “Copenhagen,” Frayn imagines the repartee between Danish physicist Niels Bohr and German physicist Werner Heisenberg on a night in 1941 when Heisenberg makes a surprise visit to Copenhagen from Munich, where he is working on the German nuclear program. The playwright examines the love, betrayal, jealousy and competition between the two former colleagues who are now officially enemies; and raises questions about the moral responsibility of scientists in the nuclear age.

Bohr had introduced the concept of the quantum state in physics in 1913 and won the 1922 Nobel Prize for his contribution to understanding the structure of the atom. In 1927, Heisenberg, while working with Bohr at his Copenhagen Institute for Theoretical Physics, established his now famous Uncertainty Principle.

At an international conference in 1939, Bohr, who was half-Jewish, had outlined the problem of how to liberate nuclear energy on a practical scale. By the end of 1940, Nazi Germany occupied Austria, Poland, France, Norway and Denmark and had established an alliance with Italy. The race to develop a practical nuclear weapon was on. How far along was Heisenberg with his colleagues in Germany? Were the British and the Americans working on a bomb? What did Bohr know? Why did Heisenberg come to see him in occupied Copenhagen in 1941? And why did he leave so abruptly?

The staged reading is performed by veteran local actors Dean Jorgenson, Peter Conant and Elisabeth Goodridge; and directed by Eileen Wilkinson. Camden Conference partner Penobscot School in Rockland provided rehearsal space for the project.

Sponsored by the Samoset Resort, the presentations are offered as a free community event in anticipation of the 26th annual Camden Conference: The Middle East: What Next?, Feb. 22 through 24, live from the Camden Opera House and streamed to satellite venues the University of Maine’s Hutchinson Center in Belfast, the Strand Theatre in Rockland and The Grand in Ellsworth.

The mission of the Camden Conference is to foster informed discourse on world affairs through year-round community events, public and student engagement, and an annual weekend conference. For more information visit camdenconference.org; send email to info@camdenconference.org; or call 236-1034.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401 or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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