Telling the Story of Anne Frank by Videoconference

With theaters and concert halls closed due to the coronavirus, performing artists have been seeking out alternative ways to bring their work to the public. Some have turned to videoconferencing platforms such as Zoom, which allows the viewer to watch different people in different places put on a performance more or less in unison. But only recently did the theater critic Terry Teachout find a production “specially tailored to the unique properties of the software.”

Park Square Theatre [is] a Minnesota troupe new to me whose plans to perform [the classic play] The Diary of Anne Frank for more than 12,000 students in St. Paul were sabotaged by the pandemic. Instead of abandoning the production, the members of the cast, who were already using Zoom to work on their lines, decided to move the entire show to the web.

Billed as “a special online production created by artists in isolation,” it is far more than a mere stopgap: It is the most stirring staging of Anne Frank I have ever seen, a version that employs the unique properties of Zoom in a way that heightens the intrinsic drama of the play itself, subtly connecting the terrible truth of the Frank family’s desperate attempt to hide from the Nazis to the infinitely less consequential but still painful solitude in which so many of us find ourselves forced to live.

This production . . . is acted by a very, very strong ten-person ensemble led by Sulia Rose Altenberg (Anne) and Michael Paul Levin (as her father, Otto), each member of which appears in costume in a separate Zoom box, seated in front of neutral-colored backdrops of varying shades. They speak directly to the unseen “audience,” using simple, sparing gestures but making no attempt to suggest physical interaction until the play’s climax, when we hear the sickening sound of Nazi policemen banging on the door to their hiding place.

I don’t want to give away what happens next, save to say that Ms. Fenster and her ingenious colleagues have come up with what might well be the very first Zoom-based coup de théâtre, a scene of stunning intensity whose mere memory reduces me to tears as I write these words.

Read more at Wall Street Journal

More about: Anne Frank, Holocaust, Internet, Theater


Israel Can’t Stake Its Fate on “Ironclad” Promises from Allies

Israeli tanks reportedly reached the center of the Gazan city of Rafah yesterday, suggesting that the campaign there is progressing swiftly. And despite repeatedly warning Jerusalem not to undertake an operation in Rafah, Washington has not indicated any displeasure, nor is it following through on its threat to withhold arms. Even after an IDF airstrike led to the deaths of Gazan civilians on Sunday night, the White House refrained from outright condemnation.

What caused this apparent American change of heart is unclear. But the temporary suspension of arms shipments, the threat of a complete embargo if Israel continued the war, and comments like the president’s assertion in February that the Israeli military response has been “over the top” all call into question the reliability of Joe Biden’s earlier promises of an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security. Douglas Feith and Ze’ev Jabotinsky write:

There’s a lesson here: the promises of foreign officials are never entirely trustworthy. Moreover, those officials cannot always be counted on to protect even their own country’s interests, let alone those of others.

Israelis, like Americans, often have excessive faith in the trustworthiness of promises from abroad. This applies to arms-control and peacekeeping arrangements, diplomatic accords, mutual-defense agreements, and membership in multilateral organizations. There can be value in such things—and countries do have interests in their reputations for reliability—but one should be realistic. Commitments from foreign powers are never “ironclad.”

Israel should, of course, maintain and cultivate connections with the United States and other powers. But Zionism is, in essence, about the Jewish people taking responsibility for their own fate.

Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship