Strange Bedfellows of Art and Politics

By P. G. Kain

Published July 09, 2004, issue of July 09, 2004.
  • Print
  • Share Share

“I have never hated the individual Jew — yourself I have cherished as a friend, but you will know that I speak in all honesty when I say that I have loved you, not because of your race but in spite of it.” — Martin Schulse in a letter to his friend and business partner, Max Eisenstein, in the play “Address Unknown.”

When director Frank Dunlop read Katherine Kressmann Taylor’s 1938 novel, “Address Unknown,” he knew he wanted to adapt it for the stage and to direct it. “It’s [about] the whole way conflicts develop,”Dunlop said in an interview with the Forward. “Watch out if you have extreme views. You’ll suddenly start overlooking what horrors you are doing to other people, and you’ll excuse them just like the German does in this play. That got me.”

“Address Unknown,” at the Promenade Theatre in New York City, follows two men from Germany who open an art gallery in San Francisco after World War I. The fact that Max Eisenstein is Jewish and that his friend and business partner, Martin Schulse, is not makes little difference at first; in fact, their differences seem to foster a broader base of customers. But when Schulse returns to Munich, their friendship becomes strangled by his growing admiration of Hitler and the burgeoning antisemitism taking over the Fatherland.

The play joins several others dealing with the individual’s response to antisemitism during World War II, from the Tony Award-winning “I Am My Own Wife” to smaller productions like David Auburn’s “The Journals of Mihail Sebastian.” Dunlop believes that after an absence of politics and religion in the theater, audiences are again interested in more substantial subject matter because of the current political climate in the world.

Despite the fact that Taylor’s novel uses an epistolary form, Dunlop believed the material would work on the stage because of the quality of the writing. “Since they are writing letters, they don’t speak ordinary English,” he said. “It’s like going to a great classic play.” Dunlop also was drawn to the way Taylor developed the narrative.

“She doesn’t just put good arguments in the mouth of the Eisenstein,” he noted. “She also puts the best arguments in the mouth of the German. You get a true conflict of people with absolutely different ideas.”

And he hopes the play is forcing audiences to rethink some misconceptions about Jews. “They weren’t just passive, saying yes to everything,” he said. “They did fight and they did resist. There are a lot of Jewish heroes around. I think it’s a good thing to remind young Jewish people that it wasn’t just extremist Jews who fought back. It was ordinary Jews who were just living ordinary, peaceful lives.”

A Presbyterian father and Jewish mother in a small town outside of Leeds, England, raised Dunlop. “My mother did a marvelous version of fish cakes, but it wasn’t until much later I realized she was making gefilte fish,” Dunlop remembered, adding that working on the play has given him a chance to revel in his Jewish heritage. “It was a traditional Jewish upbringing without know- ing it.”

P.G. Kain teaches at New York University and Barnard College.






Find us on Facebook!
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.