Sunday, January 20, 2013

Interval Seven - Let's Talk Theater

In this Interval Seven, we’ll do a brief recap of what happened in the preceding Episode Seven.  Then, a discussion of Live Theater and the actors who acted in A Ball for Genia: Edwin Wilson and Frank Platis.  And as a finale, a review by Thora of another powerful Holocaust-related play, Tosca’s Kiss, presented with great success at the Orange Tree Theatre in London in May of 2006.

In Episode Seven, General Strassel set forth his argument that the rights of the Third Reich and the rights of humanity are the same.  Wachter will argue against this perverted Nazi doctrine, 
with the realization that the lives of Lusia and Genia at stake. If Strassel wins the debate, and sends Lusia and Genia to Auschwitz, will they really be put to death?  The answer is YES!   Remember, sensitive ones! ! When Genia appears holding her ears, don’t look!
         Above is a photo of Jewish woman with two children. The little family was transported for two days  in a box car to Auschwitz. The  children need changing and they are all exhausted and hungry and thirsty.  It is a wonder that the little one wasn’t trampled to death in the packed box car. Women with children weren’t useful as slaves to the Nazis, so. . . to the gas chambers  they went—and all those others in the photo.  The angels must have wept.

Now, about Live Theater in America and England . . .

 It was once thought that the movies and television would mean the end of the presence of living men and women on the stage.  But not so!—there must be an instinct that ensures that “living theatre” will not disappear, but will thrive all over the world. The actor who played Genera Strassel in the play—Edwin Wilson— is an example. At the start of his career, he located a basement room in an avant garde restaurant named Café Voltaire, that was, in his eyes, begging to become a theatre.  So in that room—there was a crude stage at one end— he founded  his theatre and named it Sense of Urgency—an apt name for working with a  play such as A Ball for Genia, dedicated as it is to Holocaust Remembrance. His theatre has performed such classics as Pinter’s The Caretaker;  Arthur Miller’s All My Sons; and Joe Orton’s Reckless—all directed by him, and performed at major venues in  Chicagoland.  He is also an teacher of theatre at Elmhurst College, Elmhurst Illinois, which is a school notable for its dedication to Holocaust Remembrance.  

Frank Platis, who plays Albert Wachter,  is a versatile actor who has worked in theater and TV, and film. He has appeared In such theatrical classics as Barefoot in the Park, Strictly Dishonorable, and The Dove Killers. Films include Marked, Message in a Bottle, and Teplitz.  He is also a theatrical collaborator in venues such as the Silk Road and Black Forest theaters. 
In the last Episode, two seminal books were mentioned: Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, and Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. Brave New World is a dystopian novel which resolve’s General Strassel’s problem of  obviating the “different ones”  by scientifically creating “graded” individuals.  Babies are not born by women—their fetuses are “decanted” in bottles to create five classes  of beings from the Alphas to the Epsilon Sub-Morons. This grading is done by selectively  introducing alcohol in the bottles: no alcohol produces the Alphas who live the proverbial Life of Reilly; a large amount of alcohol produces the Episilons, who are capable of only the meanest jobs. So there is no possibility of conflict in such a society.  If anyone feels unhappy being “different"  they take a feel-good soma pill, and there is no conflict among the sexes because everyone is available to everyone else. A detailed  explanation and analysis of Brave New World is offered in the indispensable Wikipedia.

Nineteen Eighty-Four  is based on the practices of the Soviet Union under Stalin, who is identified as Big Brother complete with the mustache.  English socialism is also in the mix.  The society of Nineteen Eighty-Four is so strictly controlled that here is no room for individualism.  Television sets are two-way; that is, you can see the broadcaster and he can also  see you, so if you are slacking the government-required exercises in the morning, you will be called out by name and corrected by Big Brother. (By the way, two-way TV is now in the works in the U.S.!) The terms Doublespeak, Doublethink, Thoughtcrime (hate crime?), Newspeak and Memoryhole are all mechanisms of total government control, each with a contrary meaning.    An example is  Newspeak wherein the Ministry of Love is actually the Ministry of War, and the Memoryhole is censorship comprising a chute in that leads to an incinerator.  The society described is so complex that many pages would be required to describe it.  So it is best to again turn to Wikipedia for the an  excellent  description and analysis.

The two novels are of immense importance, so much so that reading them is a must. And an understanding of them is critical to recognizing the danger signals of a potential  dictatorship in our society today.
A Review of Tosca’s Kiss by Kenneth Jupp, a play based on the Nuremburg Trials, by Thora. 

This play was written in 2006 and the performance took place at The Orange Tree Theatre in May of 2006.  It was directed by Auriol Smith, and starred Steven Elder, Charles Kay, Julia Watson and David Yelland.

Here is some background to the play from

Nuremberg 1946. Rebecca West, celebrated writer and journalist, arrives to report on the world's first ever war crimes trial. She is witness to a young US prosecutor, Major Tom Morton, who faces the most difficult cross-examination of his life, because although Hjalmar Schacht may not have been a mass murderer, he was the economist who made The Third Reich work. And although Francis Biddle, his mentor, the American judge does not condone Schacht's actions, he sees that he is key to the post-war recovery of Germany. What the young lawyer sees is political expediency and moral compromise behind the official pursuit of truth and justice. As the public and personal collide nothing is simple when idealism clashes with political reality.

Julia Watson as Rebecca West and David Yelland as Biddle

The play, being a four-hander, and with several trial scenes, was ideally suited to the Orange Tree Theatre, which is a traditional theatre-in-the-round.  The audience became both jury and public witnesses during the taut and tense trial scenes between Major Morton (Steven Elder) and Hjalmar Schacht (Charles Kay).  The work is a fascinating study of politics, idealism, and betrayal.

Steven Elder as Major Morton

Tom Morton is the only character in the play who didn’t actually exist, and allows Jupp to explore the idealism of youth and basic morality against the backdrop of the Nuremburg Trials.  Major Morton, we are made aware, was present at the liberation of Dachau as a soldier, an experience which haunts him and colours his earnest and all-consuming desire to ensure that Schacht is convicted.  Alas, the wily Schacht turns the tables during cross-examination and brings in various pieces of information such as IG Farben, a German company which used concentration camp labour, was a subsidiary of the American company Standard Oil.  In the end, although Schacht’s guilt is plain to see, and nor does he show any remorse, the court sees that, for the reconstruction of Germany, they need Schacht.   For Morton, his acquittal has devastating psychological effects.

Charles Kay as Schacht

Here are some reviews:

"Kenneth Jupp's play, dealing with the Nuremberg Trials, makes fascinating viewing... The cross-examination of Schacht is riveting.  ...Worth seeing in Auriol Smith's taut, controlled production." The Guardian

"Kenneth Jupp's play about the 1945 Nuremberg trials, in which Nazi war leaders were tried for crimes against humanity, comes to a shocking climax. Auriol Smith's evocative production... packs both an emotional and cerebral punch." Evening Standard

"A masterly portrait of principled corruption". The Times

This performance at The Orange Tree Theatre was the only public performance of the fully staged play (presented with great effect by the staff at The Orange Tree, in terms of costumes, sets and props).  It did have an earlier reading at The Haymarket in 2004, including as cast member Harold Pinter.  Later on the rights were acquired by White Dog Productions LLC in the States, and a reading was given at the Manhattan Theater Club in 2010.
Now onto Episode Eight and Edward Wachter’s crucial argument. There is so much at stake—the lives of Lusia and Genia. But what about all those other Jews Wachter is sheltering? Suppose Strassel finds out about them? The situation can becom desperate. But Wachter is an intelligent man. Let’s hope he can prevail andd Strassel will go quietly away.

So, see you Monday, January 28, for Episode Eight!



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