Page 46 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 36

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3 8
objects signify cosmic forces hostile to man. Audiences must be
subjected to the maximum theatrical experience in order to
undermine their assurance and revive latent forces in them-
selves and ranging outside of them. To make the theatre believ-
able, providing “the heart and the senses that kind of concrete
bite which true sensations requires,” Artaud advocated the
exteriorization of a depth of latent cruelty by means of which
all the perverse possibilities of the mind, whether of an in-
dividual or a people, are localized. On the eve of the war
Artaud wrote as if he sensed the atrocities of World War II
with his artistic intuition.
Artaud’s avant-garde theories offer new vistas in the attempt
to cope with the Holocaust on stage. Nevertheless, the challenge
to the artist remains monumental. Relatively few playwrights
attempt to approach the subject and even fewer theatres dare
to produce Holocaust plays. The European playwrights, espe-
dally in Western Europe, have taken the lead. The New York
and London stage also made significant contributions. The
Israeli theatre, subsidized by the national and municipal gov-
ernments, has made only a token attempt to promote Holo-
caust related drama. Yet despite the small volume of Holocaust
plays written in Europe and Israel, major trends and themes
have emerged among European and Israeli playwrights.
The European playwright seems to be more preoccupied with
the artist’s ability to recreate the Holocaust reality on stage,
to transform the documentation of the post-World War II trials
into drama, to locate the guilt of the individual, the nation
and civilization during the Holocaust. Jose Szajna, director of
the Polish Studio Theatre, produced
It looks and
sounds like a fulfillment of Artaud’s theory.
is a word-
less odyssey through the Holocaust. The stage is filled with
bizarre objects, effigies, piles of clothing and shoes.
attempts to re-create Auschwitz, to reproduce man’s in-
domitable spirit, tempered by the inhumanity directed against
him by himself.
2 Josef Szajna’s studio theatre performed
in the Brooklyn Academy
for Music on June 1-6, 1976, and
also in BAM on May 25-30, 1976.