by Lorie Lewis Ham
This past weekend the play Copenhagen opened at the Broken Leg Stage in Fresno presented by The New Ensemble, the final show of their first full season.
“Copenhagen centers around a very universal question, ‘What really happened?’, but in a very specific scientific setting,” said director and TNE producer and founding member Heather Parish. “Legendary physicists Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg hash out what happened to their friendship, their science, and the roles they played in developing atomic bombs. The question is complicated by how imprecise memory can be and how hard it is to understand why we do what we do in the world.”
Heather feels that Copenhagen rounds out their 2011 year well. All of their principle productions have something to do with intellectual freedom: Literature and storytelling (The Pillowman), art (A Picasso), and now science, (Copenhagen). “We specifically choose plays with a high level of intellectual merit and curiosity for audiences who like a bit of mental sparring. Copenhagen will certainly ask people to think as well as entertain them.”
Jaguar Bennett plays Werner Heisenberg who was one of the great physicists of the twentieth century–one of the pioneers of quantum mechanics. “Heisenberg’s greatest contribution to physics was his formulation of the Uncertainty Principle, which states that if we know the position of a subatomic particle, we cannot know its velocity, and if we know its velocity, we cannot know its position.”
“I’m a strong advocate for improving the public’s awareness and appreciation of science, and for improving science education,” continued Jaguar. “All too often in the United States, public attitudes toward science tend towards indifference or hostility. There are many absurdities in modern American life, but one of the worst is that we expect to maintain our technological and economic competitiveness while denigrating the scientific thinking that makes technology possible. I was strongly drawn to a play that seriously engages with scientific thought and humanity of the scientists.”
Other cast members include TNE founding member Kristin Lyn Crase as Margrethe Bohr, Niels Bohr’s wife. She appeared this summer in Good Company Players’ Skin Deep. And rounding out the three person cast is David Otero as Bohr. David has appeared with GCP, Centerstage Clovis, Woodward Shakespeare and formerly with Theater Ventoux.
Having directed many shows at the Broken Leg Stage, Heather is very comfortable tackling the peculiarities of the small space. “Copenhagen is a very stripped down show requiring only three actors and three chairs, so the tiny black-box theater is perfect for it.”
In connection with Copenhagen, TNE partnered with Central Valley Café Scientifique on a presentation on physics. Café Sci meets monthly to discuss topics on science and technology among scientific professionals and interested members of the public. “TNE has a goal of working with other community groups in the next year to cross-pollinate and grow our audiences, and this seemed a perfect choice for Copenhagen,” stated Heather. “Working with the Café Sci people has been a real pleasure.”
The New Ensemble encourages people up for something new, something smart, and something deeply complex to come out and enjoy the show. The remaining performances of Copenhagen are November 17, 18 and 19. Friday and Saturday evening shows feature a pre-show wine reception and they have a Thursday night show on the 17th that is their “Cheap Seats Night” where all seats are only $5, making it perfect for students. Friday and Saturday Evening Performances are at 8 p.m. and Saturday Matinee’s at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10-$12 and can be purchased through their website, by calling the box office at 559-457-9613, or at the door. The Broken Leg Stage is located in Fresno’s Tower District at 1470 N. Van Ness.