City Theatre Company
January 23 – February 14
Operation Mincemeat, Operation Gunnerside, Operation Fortitude. Evocative names for covert WWII-era operations that conjure the lore of espionage, sabotage and unconventional military machinations.
A new world premiere production at City Theatre Company is exploring one such initiative. Some Brighter Distance opens at City Theatre’s Mainstage on January 23rd, inspired by the events surrounding “Operation Paperclip,” a covert initiative established by the Truman Administration after World War II that relocated some 1,500 German scientists to the U.S. to develop weapons and space technology,
Theater-goers will be thrust into the rarely told and true story of the German rocket engineer, Arthur Rudolph (1906—1996), who was instrumental in helping the U.S. win the Space Race during the Cold War. Brought here by the Office of Strategic Services, Rudolph played a pivotal role in the development of the V-2 rocket—aka the world’s first long-range guided ballistic missile—and his pioneering work for the U.S. Army and NASA helped lead to the development of the Pershing missile and the Saturn V Moon rocket.
Yet as the play chronicles, in the years that followed Rudolph’s dark past as a war criminal surfaced, and after four decades of service to the U.S., he and his wife, Marta were stripped of their citizenship and sent back to Germany in shame. Examining a complicated aspect of U.S. history, the play’s universal themes will resonate with contemporary audiences by illuminating the challenges of today’s global power struggles. It will also question the consequences of burying the past in pursuit of progress.
Written by award-winning author Keith Reddin, Some Brighter Distance is directed by City Theatre’s own artistic director Tracy Brigden. The pair are longtime collaborators and Reddin’s play received literary development and staged readings via City Theatre’s new play festival, Momentum. A graduate of Northwestern University and the Yale Drama School, Reddin has also written for film and television, and his plays have been produced around the worlds.
All of the play’s complex characters are inspired by real life, historical figures. Starring as German scientist Arthur Rudolph is Jonathan Tindle, while Elizabeth Rich portrays Arthur’s wife Marta. Robert Davis, who was a lawyer for the Department of Justice’s Office of Special Investigations, is played by LeRoy McClain. David Whalen depicts Wernher Von Braun, the Nazi regime’s charismatic head of rocket development who was brought to the U.S. through Operation Paperclip. Heading up the U.S. space program, Von Braun worked to promote space travel and even hosted a Walt Disney television special titled, Man In Space. Starring as Major Turner—the Army intelligence officer charged with smuggling Rudolph into the U.S. after WWII—is Green Tree native Matthew Stocke, who attended graduated from Carnegie Mellon’s School of Drama in 1995.
Go beyond the stage to learn more about Reddin and the new play, when the acclaimed playwright speaks about his creative process during the Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures’ Writers Live @ CLP event on January 20th. The event is free, but registration is recommended.
Looking for more events? Read our 10 Pittsburgh events not to miss in January feature.