Altogether, there are 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 familiar to fans throughout his five-decade career in theatre, television and film. (Werner Klemperer was most recognized as Col. Klink from the 1960’s television series, “Hogan’s Heroes.”)
The third Klemperer, Victor, was an author. A German Jew, Victor Klemperer was never deported and he kept a remarkable diary. Klemperer recorded, 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."
Following the death (Dec. 7) of actor Werner Klemperer, Classic Stage Company (CSC) chief Barry Edelstein has reaffirmed his commitment to present the world premiere stage version of cousin Victor Klemperer's acclaimed diaries of the Third Reich, I Will Bear Witness. “I’m sorry to hear he is gone,” Edelstein told Playbill On-Line after learning of Werner Klemperer's death. Because Edelstein sees “no organic connection” between the works of Victor Klemperer and his cousin, Werner, the theatre’s plans to present I Will Bear Witness will go on as scheduled.
Werner Klemperer's death prompts new attention on Victor who, while less renowned than his famous kin, may come to rival his uncle and cousin posthumously because of the unique and historic value of his literary contributions.
I Will Bear Witness, which is the play based on Klemperer’s diary, is being adapted by George Bartenieff and Karen Malpede, 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. 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."
I Will Bear Witness runs at CSC from Feb. 25-April 1 in "modified repertory" with the play, Race. 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