Acclaim in Europe hasn’t translated to fame in America

By Rebecca McCarthy

Photo © Nathalie Bauer – George Tabori, shown in Vienna in 2006, died in 2007.

The University of Georgia has held conferences and symposiums on race, wars, peace, farming, teaching and a host of other topics. From Feb. 26 to 28, the state’s flagship institution will hold its first symposium on the Holocaust as scholars from around the world come to Athens to discuss “George Tabori and the Theatre of the Holocaust.”

The symposium is being held in conjunction with the production of Tabori’s signature play, “Mein Kampf,” a dark, satirical work focusing on Hitler as an art student in 1910 Vienna. While a ticket is required for the play, all the symposium activities are free and open to the public.

Co-sponsored by UGA’s Germanic and Slavic studies department and theater and film studies department, the symposium brings together speakers and participants from Austria, Canada, England, Austria, Germany, Israel and Italy, as well as the United States. Financial support has come from across the university, from Duke University and from the German Consulate.

Born in 1914 in Budapest into a secular Jewish family, Tabori was working as a war correspondent in World War II when his parents were placed into a concentration camp. Tabori’s father died in Auschwitz, but his mother escaped.

Tabori lived in England, the Middle East and the United States, moving from country to country for 25 years, before returning to Europe, said Martin Kagel, the head of the Germanic and Slavic studies department.

“Though in Germany George Tabori is regarded as one of most acclaimed playwrights and directors of the 20th century, in the U.S. he is almost unknown, and his work receives scant attention from scholars,” Kagel said.

The UGA conference aims to change that, organizers said.

“The conference brings together scholars, but anyone interested in the play would enjoy the opportunity to hear and learn more about Tabori,” said David Saltz, who heads the theater and film studies department. “It would be an enriching experience.”

The conference has three keynote speakers: one dealing with farce, another with Tabori himself and the third about Jewish performance studies.

Anat Feinberg is a professor of Jewish and Hebrew literature at the Jüdische Hochschule in Heidelberg, Germany. His talk, “ ‘Macht Kein Theater’: George Tabori and His Theater Revisited,” is Feb. 26 at 4:30 p.m. in the Richard Russell Special Collections Library auditorium.

An expert in German-Jewish theater, Feinberg wrote “Embodied Memory: The Theatre of George Tabori” and “George Tabori,” a biography of the playwright.

“The Funny Thing About Jewish Performance Studies” is the title of Henry Bial’s lecture Feb. 27 at 1:15 p.m. in the Russell Special Collections Library. Bial is the author of “Acting Jewish: Negotiating Ethnicity on the American Stage and Screen” and is a theater and American studies professor at the University of Kansas. He is also the president of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education.

Freddie Rokem, the Emanuel Herzikowitz professor at Tel Aviv University, will speak on “From Tragedy to Farce” on Feb. 28 at 5:15 p.m. in the Fine Arts Building. Rokem is an authority on German-Jewish theatrical relations and the author of the award-winning “Performing History: Theatrical Representations of the Past in Contemporary Theatre.”

Two performances are on tap for the symposium.

A close collaborator with Tabori, composer Stanley Walden will perform “Fiddlers on the Roof” at 6:45 p.m. Feb. 26 in the Russell Special Collections Library.

Roger Grunwald, a veteran theater, film, television and voice actor, will perform a one-man play, “The Mitzvah Project,” about the Mischlinge who served in the German army, Feb. 28 at 2:30 p.m. in the Fine Arts Building. Nazis used the disparaging term to describe soldiers descended from one or two Jewish grandparents.

For information about all the symposium, visit www.drama.uga.edu/event/tabori.