The Classic Stage Company production of Victor Klemperer's I Will Bear Witness, a unique and personal account of the Third Reich as seen by the author, opens March 11 at CSC. Having begun rehearsals Feb. 5, I Will Bear Witness runs at CSC from Feb. 25-April 1 in "modified repertory" with another Holocaust themed play, Race.
As reported, playwright Victor Klemperer is one of three members of the Klemperer family familiar to most people. The late Otto Klemperer was a major music conductor in the 20th century, while his son, the late actor Werner Klemperer, was known to fans for his five-decade career in theatre, television and film: Active in Actors' Equity affairs, Werner Klemperer was widely recognized as "Col. Klink" from the 1960’s television series, “Hogan’s Heroes.”
The third Klemperer, Victor, might not have achieved the fame enjoyed by his family members in life, but in his journal he may have constructed one of the most meaningful accounts of the Holocaust experience. A German Jew who married a Christian, Victor Klemperer was never deported. He kept a remarkable diary, recording in meticulous detail "the humiliations and insults, absurdities and brutalities of a civilized society sliding into barbarism."
The New York Times has described his work as "The best written, most evocative, most observant record of daily life in the Third Reich."
The play I Will Bear Witness, is based on Klemperer’s diary, and was adapted by George Bartenieff and Karen Malpede. The show is directed by Karen Malpede and performed by George Bartenieff as part of the "Classic Stages / New Visions" series this season. Classic’s 2000-2001 season is devoted to Holocaust-themed plays running in modified repertory and in conjunction with a major academic conference on Holocaust Drama and related issues at New York University. Victor Klemperer’s diary was published in English only recently. CSC's Barry Edelstein said that because Victor Klemperer died in the 1950’s, he never saw his cousin’s famous comic portrayal of a WW II German prison guard. “Perhaps that’s all for the best,” Edelstein suggested.
The renovated Classic Stage Company is under the artistic direction of Edelstein and producing director Beth Emelson. Publicity materials for CSC indicate that recent theatre improvements include "a fully computerized box office system, a redesigned lobby and lounge area, refurbished rest rooms, a new handicapped-accessible rest room, and a new central heating and air conditioning system."
Memberships to CSC productions are $25, which entitles members to purchase the best seats for between $15-$25 per production. For membership and ticket information, call (212) 677-4210, ext. 10, or visit CSC in person at 136 E. 13 St.
—By Murdoch McBride