Prizm News / October 22, 2018 / By Bob Vitale
Evolution Theatre and CATCO will stage a co-production of the play about the persecuted gay war hero and computer pioneer.
Editor’s Note: The CATCO/Evolution Theatre co-production of “Breaking the Code” runs from Wednesday through Sunday, Nov. 11 at the Columbus Performing Arts Center’s Van Fleet Theatre, 549 Franklin Ave., Columbus, 43215. The theater companies are making a special offer for Prizm readers: When you buy tickets through catco.org or evolutiontheatre.org, enter the promo code SECRET to get Friday, Saturday or Sunday tickets for $30. That’s a discount of $5 to $10. You also can mention the promo code if you buy tickets through the CATCO box office at 614-469-0939.
By Bob Vitale
You already might have seen one of several takes on the life of Alan Turing, the British mathematician who very likely saved his nation by cracking Nazi code in World War II but ended up persecuted and prosecuted a decade later for being gay.
A 2014 film, “The Imitation Game,” starred Benedict Cumberbatch. An opera about his life and work premiered in 2017. The two major British television networks have produced TV films, and choirs and rock groups have produced musical pieces.
Now the first play about Turing, written in the 1980s after secret records of his wartime work were declassified, is making its debut in Columbus as LGBTQ History Month comes to a close.
“Breaking the Code,” written by Hugh Whitemore, debuts Wednesday at the Van Fleet Theatre in the Columbus Performing Arts Center. It’s the first-ever joint production by CATCO and the LGBTQ-focused Evolution Theatre Company.
“It’s real, true, heartwarming and heart-breaking,” Evolution Theatre Artistic Director Mark Phillips Schwamberger says of the play, which he first saw in London with its original star, Derek Jacobi.
Turing will be played on the Columbus stage by Ian Short, a founding company member of Available Light Theatre. The CATCO-Evolution Theatre production will be directed by CATCO Associate Producing Director Joe Bishara.
Bishara says “Breaking the Code” delves deeper into Turing’s life than the two things audiences already might know about him: his roles in breaking German military codes and developing the science of artificial intelligence, and his sad demise after he and his boyfriend were convicted of gross indecency under British laws that banned homosexuality.
Instead of prison, Turing agreed in 1952 to undergo chemical castration. He killed himself in 1954 at age 41.
“You really are building a multidimensional individual,” he says of the production. “We’re really more than the moments we gain notoriety for. It’s done in a way so you get to know who he really was.”
It’s especially poignant coming during LGBTQ History Month, Schwamberger says. As a gay man, he says he was struck by Turing’s naiveté during a time of great persecution of LGBTQ people. He says he also found it telling that one of the biggest fans of his work during the war, Winston Churchill, didn’t help Turing at all after his arrest and conviction.
In 2009, then-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologized for the government’s treatment of Turing six decades earlier. By 2012, both houses of Parliament had approved pardons, and Queen Elizabeth II signed a pardon in 2013.
In 2017, the British government approved retroactive pardons for all people convicted under sodomy laws in place between 1885 and 1967 in England and Wales, 1980 in Scotland and 1982 in Northern Ireland.