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Physics and theater collide in ‘Copenhagen’

The cast of "Copenhagen"
The cast of "Copenhagen"

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s “Cosmos” is one of the most popular shows on television, being broadcast on both Fox and the National Geographic Channel with international rebroadcasts in dozens of countries. The popularity of such a show is proof that people are fascinated by science, physics and the world around them. Combine such fascinating material with the every-day charm of a man like Tyson and you’ve got the recipe for a hit television show. Stagecraft’s inaugural production of the drama “Copenhagen” has one very important aspect in common with “Cosmos” in that it takes complex theories and breaks them down into a very manageable, fascinating and even entertaining concoction.

“Copenhagen” tells a fictional account of an actual event that happened during World War II. The play involves Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr, two physicists who exchange in a heated debate with profound ideas. Heisenberg is seeking to harness the power of the atom for Germany’s forces while Bohr is devastated that the Third Reich has occupied Denmark. This encounter between the two physicists is full of memories, affection and fascinating debate.

Director Bernie Cardell explains how he was drawn to such a challenging script, “my initial read of the script, when they first mention the meeting, the mystery surrounding the meeting and the historical events that the play is based on and the real lives that we are dealing with here I thought were very interesting. That’s what initially drew me to the script.” Cardell is joined by his Assistant Director, Luke Terry who explains another challenge of approaching such a scientific piece, “with this one, it’s just finding the humanity in it, because it is such a talky script. There is a lot of science in it, but we are finding the humanity and the struggle between these three people, all of which had a hand in shaping the future world.”

we are finding the humanity and the struggle between these three people"

Just like any episode of “Cosmos,” “Copenhagen” brings up a lot of questions, “The big thing for me is raising that big ‘what-if’ question,” offers Terry. “If the course of events had not played out the way they did in history. What if Heisenberg succeeded in splitting 235 of Uranium, giving the Nazis access to the first formula for the atomic bomb.”

“It’s an interesting piece, in taking physics, which can be kind of an out there thing for most folks, and really showing how it applies to everyday life,” offers Marc Graham, portraying Werner Heisenberg in the production. “Particularly quantum theory and everything that has come out of the last century of science. How science and philosophy and religion are really all kind of merging together, it’s really an exciting thing.”

Wes Munsil, playing Niels Bohr explains another draw to this impressive script, “it portrays the humanity of scientists. They aren’t that different than anyone else. They have the same kind of needs and wants and problems and joys and sorrows.” Which certainly explains the draw of Neil deGrasse Tyson today, a man that has been voted one of the most influential people in the world, according to Time Magazine.

At its core, “Copenhagen” is a play about conversation, about science and about the historic impact of one very important meeting. “There is something in the play that says ‘science comes out of conversation,’” offers Anne Myers, who portrays Margrethe Bohr, “that’s something that struck me because this play is about conversation.” Or, as Graham so eloquently explains, “Science begins when you start asking why.”

Stagecraft presents
May 9 - June 7
Fri./Sat. @ 7:30p.m.; Sun. @ 2 p.m.;
Thurs., May 22 @ 7:30 p.m.;
Sat., May 24 @ 2 p.m.
(No performance, Sun., May 25)
$18 - $20
Tickets at 720-289-8163 or online at
John Hand Theatre
7653 E. 1st Place
Denver, CO 80230

*Full disclosure: The author of this article works with Stagecraft

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