Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Sarasotan Provides Push Behind Play

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Sarasotan Provides Push Behind Play

Article excerpt

The production of new plays doesn't happen overnight. Once a script is written, a playwright needs a producer and theaters who share the excitement to take on a risky new project.

They need someone like Ellen Berman, a Sarasotan who got excited about a play she saw more than four years ago in a staged reading at MIT, where she serves on the Council for the Arts.

The play is "Operation Epsilon," written by MIT theater professor Alan Brody, touching on some serious subjects that Berman felt needed to be heard. She has partnered with the young producer and director Andy Sandberg to see where they can take the show, from a staged reading in Sarasota to a well-received production now running in Cambridge, Mass.

Now, they're thinking of big stars who might be attracted to a provocative ensemble play on Broadway.

"Operation Epsilon" is based on a true story about 10 German scientists who were held captive near the end of World War II in England by British and American authorities hoping to learn about their work for the Nazi government. The scientists were believed to have worked on nuclear development and apparently were unaware of whatever advances the United States had made in that area.

The play focuses on a battle between scientific advancement and what is best for humanity, and what happened when the U.S. dropped bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Brody initially stuck closely to transcripts made from recordings of the scientists' conversations, but now he "has deliberately lost track about where he's taken dramatic license and where he is following the transcripts," said Sandberg, who staged the Nora Theatre Company production.

Sandberg and Berman provided enhancement money for the company to take on a play with a cast of 11 in an era when most new works often have only four or five actors.

Berman was immediately impressed with the story.

"I was so struck by the history. I thought I am a pretty smart person and I didn't know about any of it," she said. "There are so many questions that it raises. It was 1945, right after the fall of Germany, the massacre with the holocaust and we drop a bomb on Hiroshima. …

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