BY KAYLEE DUFF
(Images courtesy of Evolution Theatre/CATCO)
Evolution Theatre Company and CATCO Is Theatre are co-producing the regional premiere of Breaking the Code, a play about the life and death of Alan Turing. The show runs from October 24 to November 11.
Evolution Theatre Company is central Ohio’s only LGBTQQIA theatre company, founded in 2011 by Mark Phillips Schwamberger, the Executive Artistic Director.
Embarking on their 34rd season of existence, the Contemporary American Theatre Company (CATCO) does a significant amount of community education and outreach. They have theatre residencies in schools and have partnerships with places such as the Ohio Attorney General’s office and the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities. “Theatre can be made everywhere,” said Associate Producing Director at CATCO and director of this production of Breaking the Code, Joe Bishara. “That’s really we try to show by what we do, on stage, in the classroom, in the community.”
The two theatre companies both thrive off collaborations and co-productions, and their similar two-pronged education-entertainment approach to theatre makes them a perfect match. In fact, one of Evolution Theatre’s main driving missions is “to provide education through entertainment,” according to Mark.
Breaking the Code is a historic play that fits right in with both the educational and entertaining parts of that mission.
SYNOPSIS of BREAKING THE CODE
Mathematical genius Alan Turing was a pioneer in the field of computer science and artificial intelligence, whose work breaking Nazi code during World War II saved countless lives and contributed to the Allied victory. His enormous contributions were classified, and therefore virtually unknown, when he was prosecuted for his homosexuality in 1952, a crime in the United Kingdom at the time.
He ultimately plummeted into ruin after his secret life was discovered and died at age 41. He was posthumously pardoned in 2013; the 2017 law that retroactively pardoned those prosecuted under the previous gross indecency law is referred to as the Alan Turing Law.
Written by Hugh Whitemore
Directed by Joe Bishara
Mark first saw Breaking the Code in 1986 in London, where the show was originally produced. Ever since then, he had been interested in producing the show himself. “It just fascinated me, and I just wanted to get this story out,” he explained. “When the movie The Imitation Game came out, it brought back this memory of seeing Breaking the Code back in London. I figured, with Evolution Theatre Company’s mission, why not try for the rights?”
So he tried — and he succeeded. After acquiring the rights to produced the show, Mark asked Joe if he would be interested in directing it.
This marks Joe’s third show working with Evolution Theatre. What Mark didn’t know when he asked Joe to direct the show was that Breaking the Code was on his bucket list of shows that he wanted to direct. Joe recounted: “I jumped out of my skin when he said he was going to do this. I said, ‘Are you kidding me? Of course, I want to do this!’”
Highlighting social injustice through the art of theatre is something that Joe is very passionate about — and Breaking the Code is no exception. “Alan Turing is someone that’s fascinated me since I became aware of his existence,” Joe shared. “He really is responsible for saving the majority of people’s lives in the United States. And every time you look at a laptop, you should think of that man.”
Joe told us about his fascination with the minds of geniuses: “They have this external calm, but you imagine all the internal, these ridiculous ideas, and they’re so far-fetched. A beautiful mind that no one can even comprehend, and they just think that the person is mad. We run into people that seem, in the real world, rather eccentric and aloof, but you give them a project to build a set or you give them where they’re creating a role, and all of a sudden, you see that person lock in, and what they can create is really astonishing. That’s what Alan Turing was.”
Mark is equally fascinated by the inner workings of a genius mind, but what really draws him to Alan Turing’s story is that fact all of that — plus he was a gay man. Historically, the queer community has been told that they contribute little to nothing in the grand scheme of things. But this story is just one example that proves otherwise.
“The reason the original play came out in 1986 was because that was when all this information about him was being declassified,” Mark said. “Up to this point, all this stuff was classified, so nobody ever knew about it. In the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, they never knew about Alan Turing and what he did, because it was all classified. Suddenly, it broke out, and that’s when this play, based on the book, came out.”
Sharing the story of Alan Turing is offering central Ohio and the surrounding Midwest a small piece of LGBTQ+ history. Mark continued: “That’s why it’s so important for it to be done. This will be a regional premier; it hasn’t been done in this part of the country. [Some people] know about Alan Turing, but there’s so many people — both straight and gay — that have no idea who he is.”
Originally, the plan was for Evolution Theatre to produce Breaking the Code in association with CATCO. “It just sort of evolved into a full 50/50 co-production of the show between Evolution and CATCO,” explained Mark. “Which I think is great because it’s bringing our two companies together on this very important work, and bringing out this story of what a gay man accomplished for the world and what the world did to him.”
Both Mark and Joe were excited to have Evolution Theatre and CATCO co-produce the show, to have the opportunity to work together on something important to themselves and to the community. “I find it very important, as an artist, to be working in other people’s sandboxes,” Joe admitted. “It’s really great to get out there and talk to people and hear other people’s ideas and concepts. It’s a chance to spend some time with other people in the theatre community, learn about other aspects about the community at large, and hopefully learn from one another.”
What’s even better is that “since we had the relationship in several associations with [CATCO], we sort of just flowed in,” Mark said. The partnership was very organic and fell right into place.
“It’s something that’s been natural. We’ve been in business for a long time,” Joe added. “Good art is not adversarial; it’s art. And it’s people coming together to create something bigger than what they could on their own.”
Breaking the Code is definitely bigger than any one or two people. It’s a show that speaks directly to the heart of injustice, homophobia and history. This is definitely a don’t-miss production! With projections and scenic elements that call back to Alan Turing’s being the godfather of modern computers and original music, Breaking the Code is sure to have the audience fully engaged from start to finish.
All shows will be held at the Van Fleet Theatre in the Columbus Performing Arts Center.
- Friday & Saturday, October 26 & 27, November 2, 3, 9 & 10 @ 8 p.m.
- Wednesday, October 31, November 7 @ 11 a.m.
- Thursday, November 1 & 8 @ 8 p.m.
- Sunday, October 28, November 4 & 11 @ 2:30 p.m.
Tickets are available for purchase online here, or by calling 614.469.0939.
- Wednesdays: $20
- Thursdays: $30
- Sunday: $35 and
- Fridays and Saturdays: $40
- Student tickets can be purchased for $15 for any performance based on availability and valid I.D.
For information about Evolution Theatre Company, visit their official website. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates on productions, behind-the-scenes photos and more community celebration.
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