Engineering a Masterly Performance

Video: Engineering a Masterly Performance — Northwestern engineering professor Matthew Grayson discusses his role in bringing the Tony Award–winning play Copenhagen to the University. See more videos from Northwestern News.

In the Tony Award–winning play Copenhagen, two Nobel Prize–winning physicists discuss the prospect of providing Nazi Germany with the atomic bomb. While those historical interactions occurred more than a half-century ago, the ethical dilemmas are as real as ever.

"It's a great play. … It's like a documentary being brought to life," said Matthew Grayson, who brought the 2000 Tony winner for best play to Northwestern. "And our students realize they are the next generation. They'll be confronted with the same difficult decisions. They will have to decide how they will respond in their own lives."

A reconstruction of a mysterious visit by Werner Heisenberg to Niels Bohr's home in Copenhagen in 1941, the play was part of ETOPiA: Engineering Transdisciplinary Outreach Project in the Arts, a McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science initiative to spur conversation about science through the arts.

"It's a special opportunity to bring science and the arts together — two creative passions of mine," said Grayson, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science who has acted in, directed and produced several plays and even tried his hand at playwriting. In addition to working as producer for Copenhagen, Grayson played the leading role of Heisenberg.

"The goal was to break down barriers between departments and encourage a free flow of ideas," Grayson said. After each performance, faculty panelists from departments such as history, fine arts, physics and German language and literature, as well as engineering, discussed the show. The play, funded by the McCormick School, ran at the Technological Institute in September.

— Marcelino Benito (J10)