This past weekend the Hatbox Theatre in Concord became one of the first theaters in the state to begin offering live indoor shows, almost a month after the restriction on performing arts spaces was lifted on June 29th. NHPR’s Sean Hurley attended the opening of Copenhagen.
Hatbox Theatre owner Andrew Pinard stands outside the venue moments before the start of the first show in months. “Being able to reopen means that we may well be able to survive through it,” Pinard says, “and that's the big thing right now.”
The show’s director Gary Locke says he wasn’t sure opening night would ever come. He and his three actors have been rehearsing night after night via zoom for seven months.
“Not that I doubted it,” Locke says, “but it just seemed like, for so long, it was just this thing out there.”
Copenhagen concerns itself with an actual meeting in 1941 between Werner Heisenberg, who headed up Hitler’s nuclear reactor program, and his mentor, Nihls Bohr, who worked at Los Alamos and helped build the American atomic bomb.
The meeting ended badly and afterwards, neither physicist could recall exactly what they’d discussed. Playwright Michael Frayn mines this forgotten territory to explore the moral implications of two men compelled to work on world ending technology.
Masks are an audience requirement during the performance and social distancing means the Hatbox can only make use of 35 of its 100 seats. Even so, there are only 15 masked people in attendance at Friday’s show and Pinard says it’ll take time for theatergoers to return.
“Hopefully it will not lose money. It's not going to make us any money,” Pinard says,” but it'll allow us to continue to build momentum and to build confidence in the public that we can do this on a safe level.”
After the show, Director Gary Locke stands outside and weeps. “It is a great relief,” he says. “Yeah, in fact, this is the first time I've actually gotten emotional about it, but I'm just I'm very glad after all this time, all the perseverance - we did it!”
Janice Beauchemin from Winnisquam says wearing a mask for the two-plus hour show wasn’t a problem. “The biggest obstacle with these masks is where do you put your earrings?” she says and laughs.
New Hampshire’s theater critic at large, Michael Curtiss, says Copenhagen did exactly what he’d hoped. “It drew me out of what was going on with my own self and in my own life, and it put me into their lives,” he says, “And this is what theater does best when it's at its best, is that it takes you out of yourself.”
Out of yourself, away from your mask even while wearing it, to Copenhagen, which runs at the Hatbox through August 9th.