Die Physiker / The Physicists by John Crutchfield


A full-length, bilingual adaptation of Die Physiker, by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, the play is intended for a mixed audience of German-speakers and non-German-speakers. The scenes run “in parallel”: with the help of a “Narrator,” a small English ensemble performs each scene first at a kind of break-neck, vaudevillian pace (think The Complete Works of William ShakespeareAbridged), then hands the set off to the German ensemble, which performs the scene “straight,” albeit compressed. In general, I chose to embrace the glittering black comedy of Dürrenmatt’s original, and ignored the script’s (in my view) misguided flailings at tragedy. The show is high-energy, absurdist and presentational, and assumes a minimalist aesthetic (i.e. low production values), a large cast, and lots of quick changes.

The impetus for this project came from Prof. Beverly Moser, one of my former colleagues at Appalachian State University, who teaches German language and literature in the Department of Foreign Languages. She had taught Dürrenmatt’s play in her classes for years, but wanted to find some way of presenting the play in German––and yet making it comprehensible to a non-German-speaking audience. As perhaps the only living playwright within a hundred miles of Boone who is alo fluent in German, I suppose I must have seemed like the obvious choice. Besides, the task was just impossible enough to be interesting.

The play premiered to great acclaim in March of 2007 at Appalachian State University, in a collaborative production between the Department of Foreign Languages and the Department of Theatre and Dance. The show was directed by Paulette Marty. To my infinite regret, I was unable to attend.