Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Take a breath, close your eyes: starting "Atomic"

We began Atomic rehearsals last night. Whenever I begin a new project, I can never shake the nerves for the first few rehearsals. I've sung for New Line before, but only in the ensemble - which was unforgettable and amazing - for Jerry Springer: The Opera  and Bonnie and Clyde, but now I find myself in a larger and more complex role.  In the next few weeks, it's my job to give voice to a real person, one who gave voice to her husband and partner as well.

Trude with Leo (University of California San Diego)
That's a big honor for any actor, for certain.  Gertrud Weiss Szilard was a physician and researcher, a person who understood and respected science, and along with her partner, was genuinely trying to wrap her mind around the enormous implications - both extraordinary and very, very dangerous - of atomic physics. In the musical, she's often depicted as an educated twist on the neglected and even nagging wife, but she's also a support, part of Leo Szilard's conscience, and what in Yiddish is known as a noodge. (By the way, isn't Yiddish amazing)?

Speaking of all things Jewish, I'll be blogging more later about the singular experience of Jewish expatriates (especially scientists) later on in the rehearsal process, and about Trude's Jewish identity during and in the wake of World War II and the Holocaust.  Jewish culture is touched on more than a few times in this musical - most obviously their horror at what was happening back home.

Atomic physics cannot have had a greater impact on our 20th and 21st century imagination and politics.  I think it's important to remember that at the heart of this incredible realization that we could bring about the end of civilization in just a few moments were real human souls, ones that we should celebrate and have gratitude for.  More than just a scientific visionary, Szilard was gifted with a real humanity that saw the political and moral ramifications of unleashing their discovery on the world.  He was also an incredibly brave man.  For her part, Trude honored that bravery.  I'm eager to get into that and explore with this phenomenal cast and crew.  Let's sing about science!

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