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Text of article from Fermilab Today
September 15, 2011

Fermilab physicist directs "Copenhagen" at Elgin Art Showcase

By Ashley WennersHerron

"Copenhagen," a play by Michael Frayn and directed by Mike Albrow, premieres on Sept. 16 at the Elgin Art Showcase. It will run through Sept. 25. For more information, please visit the Vex Theatre website.

A discussion between two physicists in 1941 could have determined the face of the future. The details of the conversation between Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, nuclear physicists on opposite sides of World War II, are unknown. And, after the war, the two men disagreed on what was said during their meeting. "Copenhagen," directed by Fermilab physicist Mike Albrow, explores the choices made by these two scientists and their consequences.

“This was a famous meeting, and we don’t know much about it,” Albrow said. “If one of them had said or done something differently, it could have changed the course of history.”

A first-time director, Albrow saw "Copenhagen" performed in London more than a decade ago. He knew he wanted to bring the play to people at Fermilab, so he did a reading of the play with three actors from Wheaton Drama in April at Fermilab.

“It was an intimate setting, and the acting was superb,” said Fermilab physicist Craig Moore, who attended the reading. “It was interesting for me, as a physicist, to see how these two legends were portrayed.”

Albrow knew the reading was well-received, but he didn’t expect anything more to come of it. Then Vex Theatre, a non-profit theatre company based outside of Chicago, approached him with the idea of doing a full production. Albrow, a recreational actor, asked a few fellow thespians to direct the play, but no one was able to fully commit. Finally, he decided that if the show was to go on, he would do it.

“This story is important. The Allies were deeply motivated to develop the atomic bomb because they feared that Hitler would obtain one first,” Albrow said. “Hopefully, the audience will gain a deeper understanding of some modern physics issues. It’s about uncertainty, both in the quantum sense and the historical sense.”

Albrow hopes everyone from Fermilab, and their friends and families, will attend a showing of "Copenhagen" at the Elgin Art Showcase.

“The play’s fairly serious, and it’ll make you think,” Albrow said. “You’ll learn a bit about physics, psychology and history.”