UGA brings Tabori’s ‘Mein Kampf’ to the stage

By Rebecca McCarthy

David Saltz

Every year a selection committee in the theater and film studies department at the University of Georgia picks works to perform. Department head David Saltz remembers suggesting George Tabori’s play “Mein Kampf” and learning that no one but him had read it. But once the committee did so, it was anxious to bring the show to UGA and Athens.

Performances will be in the cellar theater of the Fine Arts Building on Baldwin Street from Feb. 19 to 21 and 24 to 28 at 8 p.m. and March 1 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $16 for the general public and $12 for students.

The play will move to Atlanta’s 7 Stages for shows March 12 to 14 at 8 p.m. and March 15 at 5 p.m.

The play’s guest director is Del Hamilton, a UGA graduate and the founder of the 7 Stages Theatre. Hamilton directed another Tabori play, “My Mother’s Courage,” at 7 Stages, Saltz said.

Tabori, a Hungarian-German-Jewish playwright and the son of a Holocaust survivor, is well known in Europe, where his works won numerous literary prizes.

He wrote screenplays in Hollywood, including “I Confess,” directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and wrote off-Broadway plays, said Martin Kagel, the head of the UGA department of German and Slavic studies.

He also wrote novels and did translations while in Hollywood, including works by Bertolt Brecht, who influenced him greatly.

A native of Germany, Kagel met Tabori in Berlin in 1997 and interviewed him about Brecht for a yearbook celebrating what would have been Brecht’s 100th birthday. Tabori told Kagel that meeting Brecht was “momentous” and persuaded him to write plays instead of novels.

Martin Kagel

“Mein Kampf” opened in Vienna in 1987 and became one of the most performed plays in Germany. It was staged often into the 1990s and is considered Tabori’s signature work. But the play has been performed only once or twice in the United States, Kagel and Saltz said.

“Mein Kampf” is set in 1910 Vienna and shows Hitler as a young, struggling artist who is nevertheless yearning to take over the world. He lives in an area of the city where he comes into contact with Jewish residents. The play explores Jewish and German relations.

“You can represent Hitler as a young artist in 1910, but you can’t represent him in 1944 without desecrating the memory of the Holocaust,” Kagel said. “But you can show him as the representation of evil in 1910.”

The staging of the play coincides with a weekend international symposium at UGA, “Georgia Tabori and the Theatre of the Holocaust.”