War games

Taren Fujimoto

Propaganda, whether truthful or malicious, should be scrutinized entirely and sincerely before becoming part of one’s belief, as in the case for millions of misinformed individuals during and after one of the most horrific moments in human existence – the Holocaust.

Address Unknown, directed by Communication junior Julie Ritchey, explores the effects of both aspects through the fictional experience of two friends, Max Einstein, a Jew, and Martin Schulse, a gentile German.

Originally a short story written by Katherine Kressman Taylor and published in Story Magazine in 1938, the play follows a series of correspondences between the two colleagues during the Nazi party’s rise to power before WWII.

“The article was created as a form of propaganda to expose America to the dangers of Nazism and American isolationism,” says Communication junior Mark Barnas, who produced the show. “The play explores the power of propaganda addressing the necessity to speak up against prevalent horrors, a concept especially relevant to the current political strife in places like Darfur and Rwanda.”

Despite their brotherly bond, the once-liberal Martin soon becomes involved with the Nazi party and Hitler’s initiative, a decision influenced greatly by government propaganda. Conflicted over the ongoings of the changing times, Martin is forced to decide whether the Nazi party is beneficial or harmful for himself as well as his country.

“At this point, Martin is put in a difficult position,” Barnas says. “He’s at home with his wife and children and, all of a sudden, Max’s sister shows up on his doorstep with a pack of stormtroopers hot on her trail. He knows that he should keep his promise to Max to protect her, but he tells her that he values his family more and leaves her to fend for herself.”

Tensions run high between the two friends, as Max starts to realize the changes happening to his once-trusted friend. Max, however, hatches a clever plan that makes for a surprising ending.

Ritchey stresses the importance of being cautious of propaganda and its effects.

“I find the story to be historically fascinating,” she says. “We never know where we’ll be in five years, especially with such atrocities, like the war in Iraq. And unlike the author, who wrote the story before the Holocaust, the audience has the hindsight to know what will result. It’s a chilling reminder to constantly be aware of the information that we receive and what it indicates.”

According to Barnas, the show features Nazi and American propaganda simultaneously, in the form of posters, short video clips and signs.

“Your perception is by two things,” he says. “One is your own point of view. Two is your climate, or the spin that is put on the news you consume – like local news, for instance. That is one truth, so to speak, but it’s not the only one. And that is why we want to juxtapose both Nazi and American propaganda in this production.”

Communication sophomore Jon Levy, who portrays Max, and Music junior Alex Lawrence, who plays Martin, both hope that the play will make the audience consider the cruel power of propaganda at its worst.

“The play evokes the morally corrupt power of propaganda and shows how it is able to completely destroy everything,” Lawrence says. “Even something so beautiful as a loving friendship.”

Levy agrees, but focuses more on the remembrance aspect of the tragedy. “It’s a general and unique message that Jews are still saying 60 years later: ‘Never Forget,'” he says. “And it’s important that we don’t.”

Address Unknown is playing at Shanley Pavilion, 2031 Sheridan Rd., April 28-30. Tickets cost $5 for students and $10 for adults. Tickets and showtimes are available online at www.jewsonstage.com.

Medill freshman Taren Fujimoto is a PLAY writer. She can be reached at [email protected]