Quick Chat with Maggie McEnerny, Director of Copenhagen

Maggie McEnerny

Photo courtesy of Maggie McEnerny

Copenhagen, a Tony Award® winner for Best Play, is a complex production that breaks coventional rules and forces the audience to grapple with the issue of nuclear profilieration, and it is currently being produced by Academy Theatre. In this Quick Chat with Copenhagen’s director Maggie McEnerny, read about the challenge of presenting a play told without a linear structure, her next project and more.


What drew you to this project?

I can’t think of a way to say this without sounding like an über-geek, but the only thing I love more than atomic physics is a beautifully written play.  Copenhagen is a beautifully written play about two Nobel Prize winning physicists who worked on atomic research during World War II.  It’s the perfect storm of my interests, and it’s been on my bucket list since the first time I read it.

What makes the Academy Theatre a good fit for its production?

The Academy Theatre has a long history of putting up discussion-prompting productions. Robert Drake (Artistic Director) and I agree that the issues surrounding nuclear proliferation, both historical and current, warrant serious discussion.

What three words would you use to describe the play?

Intricate, thought-provoking, and beautiful.  Wait, that’s four words.  I’m awful at following guidelines.

This play doesn’t fit into a box, nor does it have a typical plot. What are some of the challenges of directing this type of non-conventional play?

The rules of the space-time continuum are thoroughly and regularly violated.  All three characters are dead, and the play is set in limbo.  The characters frequently switch from memories to musings to “real”-time in the span of a few lines.  Indicating the change of setting and time to the audience without interrupting the flow of the language was trying at times. Michael Frayn also gives us the (sometimes infuriating) gift of no stage directions.  As a result, there are 3.0 x 108 paths the play could theoretically take.  Maintaining one unified direction was occasionally maddening.  I think we got there in the end, though.

How would you describe the cast?

Curtis, Lorilyn, and Stuart are among the most intelligent, humorous, and dedicated actors I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with.  I wish polygamy was permitted in Georgia, because I would propose marriage to all three of them.  Don’t tell my husband I said that.

How has the cast adapted to challenges?

With grace and professionalism.  This process was not without its challenges, large and small, but the cast never-endingly embraced setbacks as opportunities.  They seem to have a shared philosophy that live theater is meant to be challenging, which made the difficulties manageable (and often fun).

What is your favorite moment of the play?

It’s a different moment every night, honestly.  Sometimes it’s a physics joke, sometimes it’s a moment of raw humanity.  I can’t possibly choose just one.

What do you like best about Atlanta theater?

Despite the fact that the competition for jobs and audiences is fierce, the people who work in Atlanta theater genuinely wish success for each other.  We’re competitive without being cutthroat.  We dissect each other’s plays honestly and amiably.  We come to each other’s rescue.  We’re a network of compatriots during an economic crunch that could easily have prompted us to go for each other’s throats.  We’re classy like that, and I love it.

Why should audiences come to the production?

It’s a well-done production of a Tony Award® winning play.  Plus, the actors are insanely attractive.

Do you have another project after this one?

I’m in discussions with a couple theaters about directing in their 2012–2013 seasons, but I don’t have anything completely nailed down yet.  I’ve also made the terrifying and thrilling decision to start a theater of my own, which I’ve named Lucky 33.  It’s a nascent company that currently exists only on paper, but I love it and care about its future as though it were my newborn child.

Copenhagen plays at the Academy Theatre through May 20. For tickets and more information, please visit the theatre’s website.