Ideas and the Theatre; Social guilt in drama
The program will be the diary of Anne Frank the sign of Jonah and social guilt. The series ideas and the theatre the actual views and voices you will hear drama critics Brooks Atkinson Richard Watts Jr. and Thyra Samter Winslow director Robert E. Seaver and Professor John W. Bachman. You will also hear excerpts from the actual New York production of the sign of Jonah. Those who make this series possible. The University of Minnesota radio station KUNM in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center. And now here is the producer of ideas and the theater critic at large Philip job. Sometimes the very size of a problem forces us to ignore it. For example the fact that most of the free world today is turning into a vast slum. Or that no matter what is or isn't developed technically in the
future the United States and the Soviet Union can completely destroy one another right now. Yes these are terribly big hard to face facts. But no problem is more difficult to face in our time. And the whys and wherefores of Nazi Germany. Dare we even ask what is to prevent a Nazi Germany from occurring again anywhere. My anxiety on this point was shared by Thyra Samter Winslow after she saw the Broadway production of The Diary of Anne Frank. Miss Winslow was one of the world's most published short story writers and drama critic for Gotham guide. Here now is Iris Samter Winslow. I think it was very touching a very pitiful I think it's pretty horrible to think that things like that could happen and that happened in the supposedly civilized country. I think that you know a plane like that just as we like to listen
to the radio and television shows it brings suffering people and we said the dollars to help them. I think we like to see a certain amount of suffering makes us feel very virtuous and we feel this can't happen this didn't happen but it's over now. Not in this country. We feel very virtuous about it of course those things exist and they were horrible and unbelievable that they don't exist. The tragedy is that they might exist again. That was virus Samter Winslow one of the world's most published story writers and drama critic for Gotham guide commenting on the play. The Diary of Anne Frank one must agree with Miss Winslow that it's very difficult to conceive of what actually happened in Germany as a real. Read spark of life for Hitler's professors or the private life of the master race. One group of people set out to literally and totally destroy other groups of human beings not merely systematically but often sadistic way. The immorality went so
deep even within the supposedly superior group. That friends turned on friends and children denounce their parents in forming that led to disappearance and death. Guard of the elite hundreds of the most Arion of men were virtually wiped out by other Ariens overnight because of a rumor. No matter how worthy one my conceives certain material accomplishments are certain patriotic purposes of the Nazis to be the techniques of the big lie and the informant. The motives of envy and spite. When so deep that no one could ever be safe. We're seeing some of this in Russia today. But the Germans not the Russians are our allies Nol. And our focus should be word might do the most good. And any final analysis then even if Naziism had one victors and vanquished were all caught in a horrible web of distrust. Depravity. And destruction.
One might think that a realization of just this fact would prevent any type of Nazi ism in the future. But even the realization of a fact or possibly particularly the facing of facts calls for a deep moral view. It calls for courage. Is there a courageous view a moral view about Naziism today. Or do we prefer to forget about it. Why not forget its past. It may be too big anyhow. Besides don't we have a new common enemy now and communism. But mostly we want to forget because it's just uncomfortable. Perhaps the Germans really aren't that different from anyone else. There were two plays presented in New York during the one thousand fifty six fifty seven theatrical season that
seemed to face this issue of Naziism social guilt and their meaning for the future. In my opinion the first one only seemed to face the issue. I'm referring to the stage version of The Diary of Anne Frank. For me the plays seemed a kind of kiss and tell. Cute teenager type of story that just happened to be about a Jewish family hiding from Nazis. A story that dramatized a little and explain less of the meaning and impact of Naziism. Richard Watts Jr. sent me a little straighter on this however. Mr. Watts is a columnist and drama critic for The New York Post. Mr. Watts. The Diary of Anne Frank isn't a play about heroes save possibly in the modest courage of and his father. These trapped Jews in their garret are never romanticize. They're very ordinary human beings who quarrel are selfish. No fear and envy display petty malice and have no grand an ennobling emotions. But because there is such a commonplace human beings the sufferings
and the indignities heaped upon them are all the more terrifying and we can share their experience in a fashion we couldn't if they had been idealised or made larger than life. Do we know anything particularly in through the arts in plays like this in the sign of Jonah which casts any light on how something like Naziism. Can be prevented from occurring again. Is our concept of guilt as such that it really can apply to this I mean terrifying thing of our history. No I think the only thing that we have managed to do and I think this is is one of the things that Anne Frank did was to. Show a few of the fruits of this thing. And by showing its effect on simple people only ordinary people and showing their ability to show how to withstand it. I think we're doing part of the job. No I don't I don't
think there's been any any play that has helped us to any great extent. But all of them if just for Lest we forget it was just doing that I think it's providing a very valuable service. Germany has a good deal like ourselves it's a Western civilization with a Christian background the rest of us can see that these people are so different and so I'm wondering if one of the reasons we want to avoid maybe thinking too much about Naziism is the fact that it did occur to people who look and talk and think a good deal like ourselves and I was wondering if you feel that there's been any kind of an evasion of ever and various levels of coming to grips with how this thing could happen. Pretty low but I think there's also there are some facing it off and I think. We go back to. It can't happen here. There we had a novel which wasn't actually a very good novel is it. Sinclair Lewis novel but by showing it in
America I think with it always a possibility of evading it by saying oh yes the Germans or the Russians are doing this thing but it was his title and it can't happen here and I think there was a plot as a novel it was a pretty bad play but as a novel I think it served it to perform a very valuable service but all of these things where you sort of get the problem of that that's one facet that gets after the drama as they demand Frank got after another one I think the reaction of the reported Jewish papers to German audiences to Anne Frank is there may be some value and that there is some hope in that I think the fact that they probably do sit there stunned unmoved by it. At least this is an attempt by the theater to approach important problems. To establish and even to think of using a word like establish guilt for something as big as this maybe this is the big problem of our times even when it is the most horrible things occur.
How can you really blame or can you pin it down so you can say well this will prevent it. I certainly don't think any work has covered all phases of it. The best we can do is go back to what is it. Maybe put if we small what is to hack away at one aspect of it and all of these things that it may prove to be of value. That's all you hope for. I think the New York Post drama critic Richard Watts Jr. presents some valuable insights here on the play of The Diary of Anne Frank and the subject of Naziism. But I hardly want to believe that this was a bigger problem than anyone can answer. That is why I was determined to find out more about a little play presented for three performances in the spring of one thousand fifty seven by students at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Along with evidently thousands of others my attention was directed to this out of the way play
the sign of Jonah. Through a review written in The New York Times by its drama critic Brooks Atkinson. Here now is Brooks Atkinson reading from his review. That said all kinds of moral religious and theatrical wheels in motion though I recorded Mr Atkinson and one of the quieter rooms of the New York Times youll still hear some of the times presses in the background here now as a drama critic. Brooks Atkinson. This is the sign of Jonah which is a profoundly moving inquiry into guilt addressed specifically to the post-war world. Gunther Rutan bond the author is a Lutheran pastor in the east zone of Germany is where about us not being accurately known at the moment. Shortly after the end of the war he wrote the sign of Jonah for a church audience is to examine the spiritual Delonge are of people who have survived Naziism the
starter of the innocence the destruction of cities the annihilation of faith what he had just had such general relevance and was so brutally and ingeniously expressed that his prey had a long run and I rest Berland translated into English by Bernard or rose and else to him. It deserves some of our recognition here for it is Pastor Wooten Bourne's contention that even the bystanders are responsible for this. Will send by the sign of Jonah is no sermon. It is a brilliantly composed one act drama in a barren duller style of speculation and inquiry without losing control of his theme or his sense of humor. Basta rootin Braun manages to weave Bible history and current life into a pattern of a fantastic court trial in which the archangels are as contemporary as the battered survivors of the rock.
Although the inquiry is conducted on the grand plan of the Bible it is also as homely as life in the streets. The standards are exhausted the topics are familiar. Pastor Rutan Brahman is evidently a devout scholar but also a sophisticated further writer. Arlo he describes his craftsmanship as sure of it sir really is him. He might just as well take credit for having written a poetic drama that isn't caged in the proving of things unseen. He has written an indictment of the 20th century but he is never dogmatic. He writes as a 21st century man out of a troubled mind and soul or lower the sign of John or is penetrated again bold it is are so personally modest at the center of the horrors and meannesses it requires the core is sweet. The audience knows what Pastor Long is saying when the play was finished at yesterday's matinee.
No one applauded. No one could be that much detached for him does the bell tolled. It was another man of God who toyed with that thought three centuries before Pastor Rutan bought. That was Brooks adding some drama critic for The New York Times. Mr. Atkinson's review led to quite a reaction. I think this is very much a part of our story because it shows that people are genuinely concerned with the problem that we are discussing on our program today. The problem that was dramatized in the play the sign of Jonah. For a report on this development at least from the standpoint of what happened at the Union Theological Seminary here now is the director of the sign of Jonah. Robert E. see for Mister C for Mr. Atkinson you know gave us a wonderful review. The whole world of the fair cultural world of the city and indeed the entire country seemed to come in on
us. Time magazine gave us a wonderful article as well. And as soon as that had hit the stands we began to get less. They lay in quite large numbers from all over as far as India and Australia. That was Robert E. Seaver director of the sign of Jonah which was presented at the Union Theological Seminary in the spring of 957. Professor John W. Bachmann is chairman of the faculty committee on what I just drama at Union Theological Seminary and he too had an interesting observation as to the interest and development which occurred through their presentation of the sign of Jonah particularly in relation to its playwright. Here now is Professor Bachman. This is a play done by a rather obscure German dramatist going to a region born at least he has been obscured in the past.
His plays were virtually unknown in this country. And you know after a production here at Union Seminary we find in Life magazine a writer describing this experience as seeing with his humor his religious conviction and his deep sense of humanity. Going to Ruben born is likely to become Germany's most gifted living dramatist. Now this is quite a change to occur in the space of a very short time. That was Professor John W. Bachman chairman of the faculty committee on religious drama at the Union Theological Seminary. Brooks Atkinson did not agree that the interest in this play developed out of his review. He accounts for the interest in the sign of Jonah in one sentence. Here again Mr Brooks Atkinson. The play is bound to be heard from again. There is no doubt in general that problems of pollution are very much on people's minds today.
Perhaps the answer to whether or not we can face the problem and social guilt the problem in Naziism. Lies in the interest shown in the play the sign of Jonah. What did this place say. Now I will turn the program over to the student members of the cast of the sign of Jonah from the Union Theological Seminary I think the best we can say about the play is in some of the words of the play itself. Listen now as the playwright makes timeless the problems and sins of man how he moves from the terrible and fiery furnace was of Babylon to the even more terrible and fiery furnace as a book and world this moment of shock occurs in the play. After a Judgment Day type of court seems about to conclude that the German people were responsible for the crimes of Nazi Germany.
Chad back me shakin Abednego one myself. Even now I can remember what one promises I saw and it was hard for us to bring them up just think three songs on what right all right only answer questions. Do you have any idea how it happened that the three were arrested in order to be subjected to such a horrible death. Always the very same thing someone denounced them. Now we want to know who incited the man in the street to become an informant. Everybody in the audience can guess that. Obviously it was the woman in the street who goaded the man towards a career and for that he needed a good reputation with this a period. That's an old story denunciation is the link between family and good position. Yes but for a minute if you have children after all they have to get on line. Now.
I'm a merchant had a very nice store on Elm Street you know the one that's completely destroyed. I own my own home had a wife and two kids. I say I had for I no longer have them. There's no need for me to tell you that the bomb's of let me poor and lonely if I correctly understand your play you want to tell us through all these big and little so realistic tricks. I guess that's what you call them nowadays. You want to tell us that everything is our own fault. Especially for us Germans. Well I must confess quite honestly that I cannot take this guilt upon myself. I never was a party member which is not a simple matter for a merchant. I really and truly was always against the whole business. I kept my hands really clean as far as that is possible in this world. But you see because I'm a businessman I must tell you that it's not always possible. I told you so your honor. Man of the twentieth century are never at a loss for excuses and at
thrice they destroy the cities of millions with that cursed atomic bombs while they are still probably going to do so. They allow people to perish by the million in the concentration cum furnaces. They simply give poison to gold as a bird in some these seas as and then afterwards they say it was impossible and better for it was not true. Is it perhaps not true that we have flying fortresses and that we go down into the sea and submarines that we not have for a deal. Do we not have fun in a world that would also reach into the ocean. Who do you think you are. Even if you are the queen of the solve and the queen of Babylon this is by no means old hat. This play was written in November 1946 after the birth of Christ which is another thing we shall still have to mention. I'm making myself the spokesman for all the mothers of the 20th century. I speak in the name of all the children who died innocently in the last
war. I speak in the name of all who froze to death in their flight who were thrown on buried in the snow filled ditches who were innocent of the atrocities of this war. I speak in the name of all the children who had to look into the face of the heart of this age when they should have been spending their days on some a playground. I speak in the name of the children who were carried off by hunger. And disease. I'm asking. Where is God who we were taught to call while these faith failed miserably failed just like this court in which the children are missing. Who should have accused them with their rotting delicate Bobbie's. Can you not see them. He who has ever seen them cannot rid himself of the site. Let him
join with us. And scream with me the. Other. Day Was there a God. God is guilty. From TIME magazine for me thirteen thousand nine hundred fifty seven quote climax of the action of the sign of Jonah comes when mankind up for judgment for the world's sin turns against God is the guilty one and sentences him to experience for himself the agony of a displaced person homeless hungry thirsty terrified of death surrounded by misery in sickness suffering even the death of his own child and dying at last himself in pain and honor. The human judge duly condemns
God to the hellish journey of being a man. And the three archangels leave to carry out the sentence. The Archangels depart and in the long silence that follows. The people on stage and in the audience realize that God has already served his sentence. You have just heard excerpts from the play the sign of Jonah as interpreted by the student cast who presented this play at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City in the spring of one thousand fifty seven. In posing the problem of Naziism and social guilt. On our program today we have not attempted to give any final answers. There probably are none. The best we may ask for is what Mr. Watts stated in the phrase lest we
forget. And perhaps also we may hope for a final attitude. That is why I think it is encouraging to know that a religious group was the first to present the sign of Jonah in the United States and a minister a German minister was the one who wrote the play. Well what might this final attitude be. Does it relate to religion. How might we relate ourselves to the story we have just heard. I pose these questions to Professor John W. Bachman chairman of the faculty committee on religious drama had Union Theological Seminary. I first asked him whether or not he thought religion actually had an honest to goodness relationship to real problems such as Naziism social guilt and other men say shows of our day. Once again here is Professor Bachmann. I don't believe you have reference to religion as such in the Old Testament. You have only events and history actions and reactions. But religion is
involved in all of these. And this I believe is still the case in the lives of people that the greatest impact of religion and meaning of religion comes in lives in actions and reactions in events. It's when you try to divorce religion from the life that you have a very sterile form of religion if it remains a religion at all. Not all life is religion but religion must be involved in life to be true religion. There is some difference of course between the biblical stories and today because things are on a bigger scale when the population is larger perhaps and yet there are greater similarities I think than differences. I believe we miss out on the similarities at times because we would like to escape from the responsibilities which still remain. This is a generation in which we don't like to think of being guilty or even
responsible. We would like to think of being able to explain away everything that seems to be wrong in ourselves or in others by tracing it back to our parents or grandparents or to society. And there is some validity in this to the point that we we cannot ourselves assume the full weight of all of the world's problems but it can also be an escape if we go to the extreme of it. We can get out from under all responsibility in this way. Now in the sign of Jonah I believe we have an indication here that that we do share in that collective guilt. Partly because of things we have done and to a great extent because of what we have not done. But this guilt is not something which need destroy us or which need make us desperate. Because we have reason to believe that God is a forgiving God and that in the
life and death of Christ we have the indication that God loves us not so much because of what we are but despite what we are and in gives us the forgiveness for this field. But along with this we accept the responsibility in accepting the forgiveness we accept the responsibility to try to avoid being equally guilty throughout all time. Our summary for today's program the Diary of Anne Frank the sign of Jonah and social guilt. Was presented by Professor John W. Bachman chairman of the faculty committee on religious drama at the Union Theological Seminary. Ideas and the theatre is produced by Philip a critic at large and the commentator for the series. Next week we invite you to join us for a visit to a small planet where the artist is the enemy. Participants will be authors scholars cannot Burke. Eric Bentley martinets Dworken Geoffrey Wagner and Robert W. Corrigan you will also
- Ideas and the Theatre
- Social guilt in drama
- Producing Organization
- University of Minnesota
- KUOM (Radio station : Minneapolis, Minn.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This program focuses on "Social Guilt in Drama."
- Other Description
- The series presents a discussion of the current American theatre; its values, beliefs, patterns, and problems. Participants include Arthur Miller, Eric Bentley, Gore Vidal, Brooks Atkinson, Cyril Ritchard, Clinton Wilder, Tennessee Williams, and others.
- Broadcast Date
- Media type
Guest: Atkinson, Brooks, 1894-1984
Guest: Watts, Richard, Jr.
Guest: Winslow, Thyra Samter, 1893-1961
Guest: Seaver, Robert E.
Guest: Bachman, John W.
Host: Kerwin, Jonathan W.
Producer: Gelb, Philip
Producing Organization: University of Minnesota
Producing Organization: KUOM (Radio station : Minneapolis, Minn.)
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 58-7-11 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Ideas and the Theatre; Social guilt in drama,” 1958-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 24, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-028pgw37.
- MLA: “Ideas and the Theatre; Social guilt in drama.” 1958-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 24, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-028pgw37>.
- APA: Ideas and the Theatre; Social guilt in drama. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-028pgw37