Sunday, December 30, 2012

Coming Together!

Solvay Conference, Belgium, 1933
(Bohr seated center-left, Heisenberg standing second from left)

We've been working crazy hard this weekend on Copenhagen.  Thursday night, Friday (morning and afternoon), Saturday afternoon and Sunday (morning and afternoon).  It's really come together over this intensive weekend of working, running again, and working.  We're getting comfortable with the real language of our characters.  We're listening.  We're collaborating.  We're living in the space.  It's starting to happen and I couldn't be more thrilled.

We're moving into Common Ground on the first day of the New Year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The "Heisenberg"

Here it is, the new do that will soon be sweeping the nation, the "Heisenberg."

For comparison:

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Crunch Time

This week is our last full week of rehearsals for Copenhagen.  We will get a few rehearsals in between Christmas and New Year's Day, and 3 days of Tech/Dress (yes, including New Year's Day) but this week is the last full week we'll have to prepare our play.

Friday, December 14, 2012


We did it!  You did it!

Copenhagen reached it's funding goal on Kickstarter!  We raised almost $800 for the show.  That will cover our royalties and printing costs for the programs and posters!  Wow.  HUGE thank you to everyone who participated.

We will be posting our thank you list of donors who pledged above and beyond the ticket price here on the website and in our program as soon as we confirm how people wish to be credited.  If you will be getting a ticket with your pledge you should receive a confirmation email from us asking you which performance you plan to attend.

Thank you again from everyone working on Copenhagen!  There's a word for theatre without an audience.  It's called "rehearsal."  It's only called "a play" when you participate too.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Visit with Dr. Merzbacher

John and I had a visit with Dr. Eugen Merzbacher and his wife Ann Merzbacher today.  To say Dr. Merzbacher is the man who wrote the book on Quantum Mechanics isn't hyperbole.

Eugen and Ann were very generous with their time.  Eugen shared many documents concerning the play.  He has a file on the play and participated with the colloquium which coincided with the New York premier   He and Ann also shared their personal experiences from their trip to Copenhagen and Bohr's Institute for Theoretical Physics during Eugen's first sabbatical in 1951.  It was a real treat to meet and speak with someone who knew and worked with Neils Bohr and Margrethe Bohr.

When performing a historical drama such as Copenhagen, it is important to be mindful that one is playing a character in a play.  The goal is not necessarily to look or act like the historical person.  It is, rather, to present an interpretation of the dramatic character which is informed by the historical facts of the character's life.  That said, the more you learn about your subjects, the more richness and intelligence you can bring to a performance.  Often even the smallest word or story might give you an interesting idea.  It was really exciting to get to talk to Dr. Merzbacher and Ann Merzbacher.  Our deepest gratitude to them for their help, insight, stories and hospitality. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Valley of Confusion

Anyone who has taken the BAR/BRI course for the bar exam has probably heard this.  One of the lecturers (I think it's the Criminal Law guy but I forget) used a metaphor that has stuck with me ever afterwards.

Learning, he said, comes in stages.  At first you learn the basics, you rise up into the foothills and reach a peak of "glib understanding."  You've mastered the basics.  Everything is clear and easy and straight forward.  You can apply these tools to solve a variety of problems (sadly this seems to be the level of competence in economic thinking that qualifies one to be on TV, but that's an entirely different topic).  You understand.

As you continue to learn, however, a terrible thing happens.  What you knew, or thought you knew starts to break down, because everything doesn't fit as easily as you would like.  There is corner case after corner case, things don't line up with each other.  All the knowledge you previously gained seems to be melting into a stew of contradiction.  This, as he called it, is "the Valley of Confusion."

If you persevere through the valley, if you keep fighting your way through the thickets, you will start to rise up the slope on the other side, and eventually you will achieve "deep understanding."  But only by struggling with the brambles of confusion will you get there.

His point in the course, was that the bar exam was a general legal knowledge test, and that one should not venture into the valley of confusion in preparation for it.  The foothills of glib understanding were enough to pass.  But I often think about the metaphor, because it seems to apply to so many things.

This is quite true of almost every rehearsal process I've been a part of.  You read a show.  Usually several times, and come into the first read with confidence.  You understand what you're saying and to whom.  You understand why you're there and what you want.  Maybe you've even got some lines memorized.  You know.

Rehearsal proceeds into blocking and ... and things start breaking down.  Not that your initial impulses are wrong, but you find new things, and yes, sometimes you discover you WERE wrong.  You give a line to a new person and sometimes it changes the whole meaning.  Meanwhile you get to the phase where you want to put your script down, but you can't quite do it.  That point where you're both ready and not ready at once. You want to work on meaning, but to complete the work you need to stop listening to yourself repeating and repeating your next line and start listening to your fellow actors.

Eventually (hopefully!) you get through this thicket.  You get to the point where what you WANT to say is what you SHOULD say.  Your lines feel natural, how else would you respond?  Believe it or not this happens with Shakespeare too.  You start connecting the feelings with the words.  At first this can actually be startling, even distracting.  Especially when you finally put down the script and look into someone's eyes. A new emotion can make you feel like perhaps you've made a mistake or cause you to be lost.  But eventually you're there, listening, reacting (well most of the time... no performance I've ever given is completely described this way I think, but this is what we strive towards).

Anyway, I was thinking about where we were in the rehearsal process and this is what came to mind.  After our last rehearsal I think we're deep in the valley, but we're working our way through and I think we may be starting to climb up the other side.  I can just start to feel the slope under my feet.  My breath is coming heavier.  When one is in the valley, sometimes the despair creeps in, the doubt that you will ever look through a break in the trees and see anything below.  But we're getting there.  Despite the detours and track backs the clear vision is coming.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

New Trailer for Copenhagen!

South Stream is proud to release this video trailer for our production of Copenhagen by Michael Frayn, opening one month from today!

Show dates: 
Common Ground in Durham, Jan. 4 & 5 @ 7:30, Jan 6 @ 7:00
The ArtsCenter in Carrboro, Jan 11 & 12 @ 7:30, Jan 13 @ 7:00

There's ten more days to participate in our Kickstarter!  You can get tickets through our kickstarter or on the links at the top of this blog.  

We're deeply grateful to Patrick Campbell, Jason Bailey, and Altercation Pictures for putting this amazing trailer together.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Further Reading

We're coming into the end of another week.  Since Copenhagen is inspired by real events and it's characters were real people, it has generated a lot of interest and discussion related to Heisenberg, Niels Bohr, and Margrethe Bohr.

The play also touches on almost every major development in atomic theory in the first half of the 20th Century.  You don't need to know all this stuff to enjoy the play, but some people may want more background.  The play itself has a considerable post-script where the author goes into more discussion of the people and some of the history of the development of quantum theory.

The play itself is not intended to be strictly non-fiction.  While the play is based on real events and people, and the author has done considerable work to present the theories and events clearly, Michael Frayn has taken considerable license in giving these characters voices within the context of the play.  Frayn appeals to Thucydides who explains in History of the Peloponnesian War that "I have made each orator speak as, in my opinion, he would have done in the circumstances."

At any rate, plays and movies based on real events often arouse interest in their subject matter.  To that end, here is a link to some collected resources on the play from MIT.

It provides some very good background on the principals, plus the many people mentioned and of course some about the physics itself.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

So What's The Play About?

We're very excited about Copenhagen.

People often ask "what's the play about?" A natural question but for this play I think the simplest answer is a rather esoteric one: uncertainty.  However, when re-reading the post script (this play has a 50 plus page post-script) I was reminded that while Heisenberg's theory is known as the "uncertainty principle" in English, in a way that's not the right word. Heisenberg's original paper referred to Unsicherheit which means "unsureness."  The actual concept is closer to "indefinability" or "unknowableness." The English word "uncertainty" implies the existence of a true value, an objective truth of which you have an incomplete understanding or measure. But that's really not it.

Heisenberg's theory is often misunderstood as a measurement problem. We just don't have instruments sensitive enough to measure things correctly, but if you could some how be a super teeny tiny quantum sized observer you could see what is going on (never mind that you couldn't see anything because you'd be smaller than a photon... but you get the idea as a thought)... that there is a knowable "something going on" but we just can't see it.

What Heisenberg's theory actually implies that there IS NO objective truth. Or perhaps, the thought that there is one isn't useful to us.  It's a fundamental aspect of nature that there is no objective definite answer. In fact, (and this is the cool and strange part) you can quantify and define your inability to quantify and define!

It's weird and a bit mind blowing but the truth is that at a certain degree of specificity there is no objective truth. There's no "there there." Basically to me this is what the play is about, writ large. That is, Heisenberg discovered a fundamental feature of the quantum atom, that some things are not just difficult to know, that they have a certain definable characteristic of unknowableness. The play takes this idea and expands it to our lives. That history, memory, and even our own motivations have some of this element of mystery. The point (as I see it) is that ultimately in a search for truth the greater truth is that there IS no truth; no objective, observable universe; no single correct explanation of a behavior or phenomenon; that knowledge is the collection of possibilities, not the elimination of them.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


South Stream is thankful for friends.  So many people already have helped to make this show a reality.  Really it's hard to overstate how much work goes into even a tiny show like ours, and these types of shows simply wouldn't be possible without a bunch of friends pitching in.

Thank you to:

Jeri Lynn Shulke and The ArtsCenter
Rachel Klem and Common Ground
Tina Vance and Hope Community Church
Meredith College for costumes
Madira Hoffman for costuming
Todd Houseknecht for lighting design
Daniel McCord for amazing poster design
Oscar Garcia for logo work
Thor Kessler for help with pronunciation
Patrick Campbell, Jason Bailey and Altercation Pictures for the video trailer

and of course:
Andrew Hayworth our director
Ann Davis our stage manager
Bonnie Roe our Margrethe

Monday, November 19, 2012

Off to a great start

We're taking a break for Thanksgiving, but we've had a great start to the production thus far.

First, we welcomed Todd Houseknecht as our lighting designer.  Todd has previously worked at NRACT, RLT and Cary Players, so we're very happy to have him on board. 

Second, with a bit more than a week of rehearsal under our belt we've gotten Act 1 blocked and managed to run through it Thursday night.  I have to say it looked pretty good considering we're more than a month from opening.  

This weekend we were busy with other work on the show.  Saturday morning Patrick Campbell and Jason Bailey (a.k.a. "Altercation Pictures") did the outdoor shoot for the trailer (yes!  we'll have a trailer for "Copenhagen" fancy!).  It's going to look great.  Sunday afternoon Todd and I visited the "West End," our venue at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro.  We looked at the space and discussed ideas for lighting the stage in the round.  It's so great to have Todd on board.  I know which end of the light to point at the actors, but that's about it.  The ArtsCenter will be our second weekend venue, so having a plan developed before we have to load in will go SO far in making sure we have a smooth transition.

Now the actors have a week off to learn lines and eat turkey.  Don't forget about our kickstarter!  We're a bit more than 20% to our goal!  We need your help to make this happen.  Get your tickets early!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Big news: today we're launching our Kickstarter campaign for Copenhagen!  If you're considering going to the show, please go over to our Kickstarter page and pledge.  If you pledge $15 you get a ticket... which will be the ticket price at the door.  You save service charges and you get a ticket in advance.

If you can't make it but you want to help out the show, or if you want to give a little extra in addition to the ticket price, we'll give you a thank you in the program.

This is a great opportunity for us to presell some tickets and make sure we have enough money to cover our costs.  We can't do this without you!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Facebook event!

We have show dates, we have showtimes, we have an awesome poster, we have a facebook event!  Check it out and let us know you're coming!  Also, please like South Stream on facebook. We like you we promise.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Here's the show poster for Copenhagen.  Pretty boss right?   Amazing work by Daniel McCord.  The background image are traces left by subatomic particles in a bubble chamber.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


South Stream Productions will be producing the play Copenhagen by Michael Frayn Jan 4-6 at Common Ground and Jan 11-13 at the Carrboro Arts Center!  

Copenhagen is an intense drama that focuses around Niels Bohr, his wife Margrethe Bohr and Werner Heisenberg. It centers on a real visit Heisenberg made to the Bohrs in Copenhagen in 1941, at the height of World War II and a conversation that took place there, and the subsequent historical controversy of its meaning.  The characters now "dead and gone" return to those events to revisit and explore that conversation and the very idea of memory and truth.  

Hello World

Welcome to South Stream Productions interweb site.  We're here on blogger because it's wonderful user interface and custom design features.  Oh, and it's free.  Did we mention free?

South Stream Productions is a group of actors who want to do theatre in the triangle area that we think is interesting, engaging and entertaining... but most of all "fun stuff we want to do."  We're not doing this for money (well, you do have to buy tickets, but trust me, we're NOT doing this for the money).  We're doing this because we find stories we like, that we'd like to tell and we think we'd be good people to tell them.  Characters we'd like to play, shows we'd like to direct.  That's it.  So come join us.

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