November 19, 2021
By Alaina Uricheck ’24
Jeanne Tiehen, assistant professor of theatre at Susquehanna University, recently published The Theatre of Nuclear Science: Weapons, Power, and the Scientists Behind it All. Intended for scholars and graduate students, the book contains “a great deal of textual analysis and comparisons of what is written with what is historically true and culturally relevant,” Tiehen explained.
“I try to incorporate science plays when I can in my classes. When a play confronts us with something like the realities of the bomb, I think it resonates differently than reading about it or watching a film,” Tiehen said. “I imagine I will continue to find ways to integrate this topic into my courses, and I will always be on the lookout for new works about this topic.”
Tiehen was inspired to write The Theatre of Nuclear Science: Weapons, Power, and the Scientists Behind it All by a course she took as a graduate student called Theatre and Genocide. The course prompted her to research scientists who were displaced and expelled from their jobs and home countries in Europe during World War II due to their Jewish heritage and identities. During her research, she found that quite a few then started working on the bomb in the U.S. thinking it would be used against Hitler, but instead was used against Japan and created “unimaginable tragedies” in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
“I think theatre offers a lot to the topic of nuclear war: immediacy, a grasp of the high stakes involving these weapons and how the always-present threat of war is possible,” Tiehen said. “Theatre can jump through time by restaging history and by presenting what may be in the future.”
The biggest lesson Tiehen hopes to impart to her students is that “we do not always know the ways in which we plant seeds for our future work.
“When I wrote a paper in graduate school and visited museums about the bomb for my dissertation, I had no plans to write a book. When I gave a presentation at a conference about this topic in March 2019, I had no idea that an editor would be interested,” Tiehen said. “We do not always know the great opportunities that are forming with the small steps we are taking in the moment.”