Sunday, February 26, 2017

Private Lives

My friend Ken is an actor and Professor at the Boston Conservatory--a music and performance school very close to where I work at Northeastern.  Yesterday his senior students were performing Fear and Misery in the Third Reich at a 2pm matinee.  The play is not the Odd Couple. Had it not been that this was one of his productions I would have skipped a show about the Nazis and enjoyed what was a balmy 70 plus degree day at the end of February.

I've been to his plays before at the Conservatory but this one was in a different theatre.  What with some surprising traffic on a main road, and more difficulty than usual finding a parking spot, I just arrived at the building address at 2--on the button.  Once inside, I had to find and wind my way in a maze to locate the theatre itself.  Down a staircase, through a computer room, down an alley way, and I peak around a corner.  When I peaked around the corner, I saw that the show has started.  Fortunately, I found a spot right away--in the front row.  I snuck in, parked myself, and began watching a play about Nazis.

I knew nothing about the show before I sat down except that it was about the Third Reich.  This play--I discover at intermission--had previously been called "The Private Life of the Master Race."  I am familiar with that title--though had never seen the show. I am pretty sure that when I was an undergraduate, there had been a student production at Albany.   When the show concluded Ken told me why he could not use the original title.  I now cannot recall the reason completely.  The original title is more apt.  The show is made up of vignettes that depict what it was like to be a member of the so-called "Master Race" while Germany was succumbing to Nazi influence.

In more ways than one for me, this was an "in your face" production. I was right on top of the actors shouting Heil Hitler. They were bolting on and off the set inches in front of me. They carted in caskets, Nazi flags, members of Hitler youth.

Vignettes showed frightened scientists excited about Einstein's discoveries but afraid to acknowledge their excitement lest they be identified as Jew sympathizers; a judge debating whether to acquit guilty SS officers and find guilty an innocent Jewish merchant; a Jewess leaving her non Jewish husband so that he would not lose his position in a hospital.

Ken added some things to the show which were powerful.  Near the beginning he had actors hold up a bed sheet onto which he projected some clips from late 1930s Germany.  The excerpts were chilling. Hitler's proclamations regarding immigration and keeping the Aryan race pure. Goebbels attempts to intimidate the press.   Lobotomized followers goose stepping to the beat of a megalomaniacal leader.

At the end of the show, the actors reprised a scene from the end of the first act.  At its conclusion, right before the curtain call, the actors--all early twenty somethings--shouted out, Never Again.

Given the news on Friday that Trump had prohibited certain news outlets from briefings that they had previously been allowed to attend, the play was especially gripping.

I think there are a number of different types of persons who voted Republican in the last presidential election. (1) There are conservatives who believe that the tenets of being conservative are correct --less government intervention, low taxation, rugged individualism, and preservation of traditional notions of God and family.  (2) There are Republicans who have always voted Republican, are loyal the Republican party, who could not comfortably pull a lever for a Democrat, and who may feel that even a less than palatable candidate who is Republican will be able to increase Republican influence and consequently better government.  (3) There are people who just could not embrace Hillary Clinton. She did not do anything for these voters and they could not warm up to her candidacy. (4) There are people who liked and like Donald Trump's message.

My question is this: given what we know about history--Where are the people from the first three groups now that Trump has shown himself to (1) have no regard for the truth, (2) support a master race agenda, and (3) suppress the right of freedom of the press.

It is time to speak up. Now. The private life of the master race shows how corrosive not standing up to lies can be to all of us.

Very balmy yesterday in Boston. Saw the show, walked out, took a stroll on 2/25 which typically is an option only on 4/25.

Woke up this morning.  Feels like 25 degrees.  Time for all of us to confront reality.

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