Trinity 5:29

Conceived by Axis Company

Directed by Randy Sharp

April 2 - May 9, 2009

Thursdays - Saturdays at 8PM
Adults $20; Seniors/Students $15

TRINITY 5:29 centers on J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb. When Trinity, the first atomic bomb, was tested at 5:29am on July 16, 1945, Oppenheimer whispered a quote from Hindu scripture, "I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." Less than a month later, two 20-megaton bombs were dropped on Japan, killing almost a quarter of a million people. Trapped in a desert of complicated regret, guilt and justification, New Jersey native Oppenheimer spent the rest of his life trying to decipher his actions. Using the form and structure of the medieval cycle plays, TRINITY 5:29 shows OppenheimerÕs journey as he remembers his girlfriend Jean Tatlock, the supposed Communist who committed suicide the year before; the arrogant, yet vulnerable General Groves, overseer of The Manhattan Project; and President Harry Truman, who pushed the button that started the end of the world.

Featuring: Edgar Oliver, Brian Barnhart, Marc Palmieri, Britt Genelin

director: Randy Sharp
light designer: David Zeffren
sound designer: Steve Fontaine
set designer: Kyle Chepulis
assistant light designers: Amy Harper, Alex Casagrande
costume designer: Elisa Santiago
dramaturgy: Christopher Swift
set construction: Josh Higgason, Ian Tooley, 11th St. Workshop
costume construction: Aughra Moon
stage manager: Edward Terhune
asst. stage manager: David Crabb
sound technician: David Balutanski
website & graphic designer: Ethan Crenson
publicity/pr: Ron Lasko/Spin Cycle
photographer: Dixie Sheridan
box office: Regina Betancourt

artistic director: Randy Sharp
producing director: Brian Barnhart
executive producer: Jeffrey Resnick
production manager: Ian Tooley


During the Middle Ages a form of public performance had evolved in the towns and cities across Western Europe. These entertainments told the stories of the Bible in a cycle of plays, often unique and specific to each town or group that performed it. Creation, The Fall of Adam and Eve, Abraham and Isaac, Jonah and Noah’s Ark were among the most popular. The medieval audience would have found, in these mythic stories, a lexicon and visual language capable of deciphering their lives. It must have been a tremendous relief to see their quotidian struggle depicted in the fantastical language of god’s wrath, the forbidden fruit of knowledge, the fall of Adam and the rising waters of the apocalypse.

At 5:29 AM on July 16, 1945 the desert surrounding Los Alamos New Mexico was illuminated by the detonation of TRINITY, the first atomic bomb. Less than a month later two 20-megaton nuclear weapons were dropped on Japan killing close to 250,000 people.

41 at the time of the Manhattan Project, Oppenheimer was deeply conflicted regarding the possible uses for his creation. Inexorably driven to complete the most daring scientific endeavor ever undertaken – the release of power from within the atom – Oppenheimer was conscious of the possible disastrous effects of its conclusion. Immediately following the detonation of TRINITY, Oppenheimer advised the president of the United States not to build or deploy any weapon using this new technology. His advice was ignored. Years later, after losing security clearance for his suspected communist leanings (fabricated charges meant to remove his dissenting voice from the nuclear weapons program) Oppenheimer remembered what he was thinking upon the miraculous and devastating detonation of TRINITY: “Now I am become death…the destroyer of worlds.” He died in relative obscurity at 63.

Harry Truman was one of the few presidents in United States history to serve in that office without winning an election. He stepped in after the death of the beloved four-termed Franklin Roosevelt. Desperate to stave off an invasion of US territory and to save millions of American lives by ending the war with Japan, he pushed for the creation of a weapon more powerful than any before it. Heedless of warnings regarding an inevitable arms race and possible end of civilization, Truman tested and deployed three nuclear weapons in his lifetime. To this day, the United States is the only country in the world to have used an atomic bomb in warfare.

Jean Tatlock had a serious affair with the married Oppenheimer. It is likely that he shared with her his misgivings and fears regarding his work and may have also passed nuclear secrets to his possibly communist girlfriend. The daughter of a medieval poetry professor, Tatlock is believed to have been the reason Oppenheimer named his creation TRINITY after the John Donne poem they read together and loved. Jean committed suicide in a hotel bathroom a little less than a year before the atomic test at Los Alamos.

Leslie Groves was the general in charge of the entire military operation at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. At odds with his more philosophical scientist counterparts, Groves pushed hard for the quick manufacture of the weapon that would end the war. Possibly battling feelings of intellectual inferiority, he brooked neither delay nor diversion from Oppenheimer. At 5.29 AM on July 16 he completed his mission.

Special Thank You to Sydney Boisbrun

This production is made possible by a generous grant from the Peter Jay Sharp Foundation.

  • Brian Barnhart, Edgar Oliver, Britt Genelin - photo by Dixie Sheridan
  • Marc Palmieri, Brian Barnhart, Edgar Oliver, Britt Genelin - photo by Dixie Sheridan
  • Marc Palmieri, Britt Genelin, Edgar Oliver, Brian Barnhart - photo by Dixie Sheridan
  • Britt Genelin, Edgar Oliver - photo by Dixie Sheridan

“... extraordinary and intense ... 'Trinity 5:29' is a work of theatre that needs to be experienced ...”
—Martin Denton,
“... a wonderfully extravagant production ... impressive ... compelling ... Axis Company manages to tickle the audience intellectually and visually.”
—New Theater Corps
“... terse and cryptic ... fascinating ... a worthy examination of historical significance ... spooky ... meticulous ...”