The German play about the Cold War will be per­formed at Hillsdale beginning April 26. Channels | Col­legian

Next week stu­dents will have the oppor­tunity to witness the fusion between art and science in Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s play “The Physi­cists.” In the Quilhot Black Box Theatre at the Sage Center for Per­forming Arts, stu­dents will retell a tale of drama and sus­pense set in a Swiss san­i­tarium. Per­for­mances of “The Physi­cists” begin on April 26, with show­times at 8:00 p.m. Wednesday through Sat­urday, and one per­for­mance at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 29.

Pro­fessor and director of theatre George Angell said that, like all of Dürrenmatt’s work, the Physi­cists is a unique play,

“This par­ticular script begins as a murder mystery, then it twists, and twists, and twists again until it is some­thing wildly unex­pected,” Angell said.

Angell referred to Dür­renmatt as “the most important German lan­guage author of the second half of the 20th century.” “The Physi­cists” incor­po­rates the history of the Cold War of the 1950s and 1960s into the story. Angell added that this play raises important ques­tions of the morality of science. Regardless of one’s spe­cific interests, there are many aspects of this play that would fas­cinate many indi­vidual members of an audience, Angell said.

An entire 3-credit class in dra­maturgy has been solely devoted to the show, and the three student leads have put at least 100 hours apiece of research into the play. Pouring 15 or more hours of rehearsal a week into the pro­duction, these stu­dents have worked hard to bring this enter­tainment to life.   

Among these stu­dents will be Maddy Johnson, a senior phi­losophy major who is playing the char­acter of Frau Lina Rose, the wife of one of the physi­cists.

This is Johnson’s first and only play at Hillsdale, though she par­tic­i­pated in drama in high school. Being in a play has added a balance to her schedule, Johnson said, adding that she enjoys entering the imag­inary world during the week instead of just reading all the time.

Inspired to act partly by David Tennant’s role as Hamlet in the BBC pro­duction and by her par­tic­i­pation in Dr. Smith’s Shake­speare class, Johnson said being a part of this pro­duction has been a mean­ingful expe­rience to her.

“It is def­i­nitely an exercise in cre­atively trans­forming myself,” Johnson said. “I do enjoy playing [Lina]. I enjoy the melo­drama, if I am honest with myself.”  

David Whitson, a senior eco­nomics and Latin double major, will be playing the char­acter of Johann Willhelm Mobius, one of the physi­cists in the sana­torium. Whitson is no stranger to Hillsdale’s theater program, but he said that for him, the biggest dif­ference in this show in com­parison to others he has done is that his char­acter in this play has many dif­ferent and deep layers that are not always evident.

“His true under­lying motives for every­thing he does are subtle, yet pow­erful, and lead him to places and actions that no physicist would ever truly go. Having this many thoughts and pas­sions in one char­acter has cer­tainly been some­thing I have par­tic­u­larly enjoyed,” Whitson said.    

Junior Rebekah Roundey, a double major in physics and music, says that she believes there is an aes­thetic side to physics that can combine well with any art.

“Just like in a genre like science fiction, the physics can easily be a setting for the plot, or a starting point for whatever dra­matic or moral devel­op­ments may occur,” Roundey said.  

Angell said that he has been a theater director for 50 years, and that he has been thinking about pro­ducing this show for 40 years. The process of pro­ducing The Physi­cists has been one of the smoothest of his entire career.

“The ded­i­cation, talent and pro­fes­sion­alism of the cast has made the process joyful, and remarkably free of anxiety. I fully expect the per­for­mances to be won­derful and exquis­itely detailed, marred only by the fact that the Quilhot Theatre seats only 70, so it will only be seen by those pro-active enough to reserve seating early,” Angell said.

To reserve free tickets, email the box office at or call 517 – 607-2848.  

“It’s really fun. I think it’s a very Hillsdale play in some sense, because it’s clever and funny. There are twists and turns, but it’s also very thought-pro­voking,” Johnson said.