The Real Dr. Strangelove

Play title:  The Real Dr. Strangelove

Author (s):  Peter Goodchild

Publisher: L.A. Theatre Works 

Publication Date: March 23rd, 2007

Funder: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

Genre: Historical Drama

Primary Discipline: Physics

Secondary Discipline: Technology

Scientist (s) and Historical Figures:

Edward Teller – Hugarian-born American nuclear physicist, known colloquially as ‘the father of the hydrogen bomb’. Of Jewish descent, Teller immigrated to the United States in the 1930’s, and was an early member of the Manhattan Project charged with developing the first atomic bombs. He was involved in a ten-year struggle to develop the H-bomb in which he was Oppenheimer as one of his main obstacles. 

William Borden – A Yale law graduate, and bomber pilot with the 8th USAF in World War II. Influential executive director of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy until sacked in 1953. He was suspicious that there was a second spy at Los Alamos during World War II which led him to investigate Oppenheimer. 

Lewis Strauss – Began life as a shoe salesman who by his early twenties was assistant to Herbert Hoover, organizing post-war food relief. Became a wealthy banker who rose to the rank of Rear Admiral during World War II. Eisenhower’s unlike appointee to run nuclear affairs, he resisted disarmament and was prominent in efforts to dispose Oppenheimer. 

Roger Robb –  Well-established trail lawyer who prepared the government case for the hearing. 

Bob Christy – A physicist who had known Teller at Los Alamos. Their families had shared a house in Chicago directly after the war. 

Luis Alvarez – Worked under Lawrence at the Berkley Radiation Laboratory for twenty years. Nobel laureate in 1968. One of the few senior scientists to give evidence agains Oppenheimer a the latter’s security hearing. 

Ernest Lawrence – Inventor of the cyclotron, Nobel Laureate, and the first U.S. entrepreneur of ‘big’ science. Provided crucial backing to the U.S. A-bomb program, as well as the H-bomb and Teller’s second laboratory at Livermore. Originally a friend to Oppenheimer, he eventually came to distrust him. 

Hans Bethe – German who immigrated to the U.S. in 1935. Head of the Theoretical Division a Los Alamos during World War II and a government advisor for five decade thereafter. Nobel laureate in 1967. A close early friend of Teller’s, their friendship was put to the test as their news on the nuclear program diverged. 

Rose Bethe – Bethe’s wife.

Enrico Fermi – Italian theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate who emigrated to the U.S. in 1935. Fermi won the 1938 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on induced radioactivity.

Clay Blair – Time journalist. Co-authored The Hydrogen Bomb: The Men, the Menace, the Mechanism with James Shepley in 1954.

J. Robert Oppenheimer – Scientific Director of Los Alamos during World War II. Post-war became director of the Institute of Advanced Studies at Princeton and influential member/chairman of countless government defense committees. He was believed by Teller to have deliberately obstructed the H-bombs development.

Norris Bradburgy – Physicist who succeeded Oppenheimer as director of Los Alamos in 1945, a job he held for twenty-five years. He was increasingly at odds with Teller over his lack of support for the H-bomb.

Lloyd Garrison – Lawyer, parter in distinguished New York practice, and a man whose hobbies include bird watching, philosophy, and Greek literature. 

Mici Teller – Teller’s childhood sweetheart. A mathematician and an independent spirit. 

(Scientists and Historical figure descriptions provided by The L.A. Theatre Works Audio Docudrama Series)

Source Texts:

‘Edward Teller: The Real Dr. Strangelove’ by Peter Goodchild

Character Breakdown: Actors can play multiple roles

Edward Teller

William Borden

Stirling Colgate

Rosie Colgate 

Lewis Strauss

Roger Robb

Bob Christy

Luis Alvarez

Ernest Lawrence

Hans Bethe

Enrico Fermi

Clay Blair

J. Robert Oppenheimer

Norris Bradburgy 

Lloyd Garrison

Mici Teller




Newsreader #1

Newsreader #2

Newsreader #3

Court Official



Setting: Various locations in Cold War America and South Sea Islands

Time Period: 1952-1954

Synopsis of Play: The birth of Armageddon. The first H-Bomb detonates and the proud father is Edward Teller. But he’s on a collision course with Robert Oppenheimer, head of the team that created the Atomic bomb. Now Oppenheimer has turned pacifist and the government will stop at nothing to neutralize him. And Teller is their star witness. Peter Goodchild based the play on his book.

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

First Performance Date: June 2006

First Producer: L.A. Theatre Works

Performance History:  The Real Dr. Strangelove by Peter Goodchild was originally commissioned and produced by L.A Theatre Works, with lead funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, bridging science and the arts in the modern world. It premiered and was recording before a live audience at the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles in Jun 2006. It was directed by Matt August.

(Performance History provided by The L.A. Theatre Works Audio Docudrama Series)


Entered by: Anna Galanides

Photo/Visual Research with citations

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