In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer

This play brings the reader through the questioning of Oppenheimer, the leading physician in the making of the atomic bomb, by a Personnel Security Board.

Play title:  In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer

Author (s):  Heinar Kipphardt

Publisher: Cornell University Press

Publication Date: 1964

Genre: Drama

Primary Discipline: Physics (Nuclear)

Secondary Discipline: Atomic Bomb

Scientist (s):

  1. Robert Oppenheimer, father of atomic bomb

Edward Teller, father of hydrogen bomb

Hans Bethe, theoretical physicist

Isidor Isaac Rabi, worked on nuclear magnetic resonance

Source Texts: Based on the documents:

Findings and Recommendations of the Personnel Security Board in the Matter of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer,

Letter from General Manager K. D. Nichols, United States Atomic Energy Commission, to Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer-Forwarding Findings and Recommendation of the Personnel Security Board

Letter from Dr. Oppenheimer’s Attorneys to General Manager K. D. Nichols, United States Atomic Energy Commission, Replying to the Latter’s Letter to Dr. Oppenheimer Transmitting the Findings and Recommendation of the Personnel Security Board

Letter from General Manager K. D. Nichols, United States Atomic Energy Commission, to Dr. Oppenheimer’s Attorneys, Concerning Procedures in the Matter of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer

Recommendations of the General Manager to the United States Atomic Energy Commission in the Matter of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer

Decision and Opinions of the United States Atomic Energy Commission in the Matter of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer

Character Breakdown:  14 males, 0 females

  1. Robert Oppenheimer, physicist, Gordon Gray, Chairman of Personnel Security Board, Ward V. Evans, member of Personnel Security Board, Thomas A. Morgan, member of Personnel Security Board, Roger Robb, counsel for the Atomic Energy Commission, C. A. Rolander, associate of Robb, security expert, Lloyd K. Garrison, counsel for Oppenheimer, Herbert S. Marks, counsel for Oppenheimer, Major Nicholas Radzi, Security Officer, witness, John Lansdale, lawyer, formerly Security Officer, witness, Edward Teller, physicist, witness, Hans Bethe, physicist, witness, David Tressel Griggs, Chief Scientist of the Air Force, geophysicist, witness and Isidor Isaac Rabi, physicist, witness.

Setting: Room 2022 of the Atomic Energy Commission in Washington

Time Period: 1954

Synopsis of Play: This play brings the reader through the questioning of Oppenheimer, the leading physician in the making of the atomic bomb, by a Personnel Security Board. The panel is trying to determine whether or not he is loyal to the United States, due to his Communist past and hesitancy regarding the production of the hydrogen bomb. Although he was praised for his work with the atomic bomb at Los Alamos, Oppenheimer was thought to have delayed the hydrogen bomb in the cold war with Russia due to his previous ties, with friends and even his wife. The Security Board interviews many witnesses to see all sides of the argument, physicians who worked with him and Security Officers who investigated him in the past. Of course, none of the witnesses give a straight answer. As easily as one sees him totally loyal, the other would never trust him with the secrets of America again. In the end, the panel (though divided) decides to recommend against his security clearance. Oppenheimer states that even if the review of the decision changes he would not work on war projects again as it was the Devil’s work.

First Performance Date: March 6, 1969

First Producer: Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Center

Performance History: The original production of In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer took place in the Lincoln Center with an initial preview on February 22, 1969 and a full scale production on March 6, 1969. The initial production team lasted until September 27, 1969. Since then over 162 performances have occurred both off and on Broadway to varying degrees of success. Joseph Wiseman starred as J. Robert Oppenheimer for the initial show. Gordon Davidson was the director. Peter Wexler was the scenic designer. Constance Ross was the costume designer. John Gleason was the lighting director. Barbara-Mae Phillips was the production stage manager. Patrick Horrigan was the stage manager.

Links:

http://www.playbill.com/personlistpage/person-list?production=00000150-aea6-d936-a7fd-eef6ecf20000&type=op#op

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/13/theater/reviews/13opp.html

https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-production/in-the-matter-of-j-robert-oppenheimer-13093

http://avalon.law.yale.edu/subject_menus/oppmenu.asp

http://www.playbill.com/production/in-the-matter-of-j-robert-oppenheimer-vivian-beaumont-theater-vault-0000011295

http://www.theatermania.com/new-york-city-theater/reviews/06-2006/in-the-matter-of-j-robert-oppenheimer_8400.html

http://variety.com/2006/legit/reviews/in-the-matter-of-j-robert-oppenheimer-1200515667/

Entered by: Brian Teller and Rachel Applebach

Rachel Applebach is a sophomore student at Christopher Newport University. She is an English major, concentration of Literature, with a Leadership minor.

Brian Teller is a sophomore student at Christopher Newport University. He is a History Major, focusing on Public History, with a minor in Museum Studies.

 

 

 

 

 

Production Photos:

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