I went to see a play at the Dundas Little Theatre tonight. It was called Taking Sides and was about an American army major who was questioning public figures in Germany after the war to determine if they would be allowed to take a place in public life again. The general was questioning the conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, who turned out to be a very formidable man. He was loved by the people because he used his connections in the Nazi government to help Jewish musicians escape from Germany. In the end it came down to a question of whether he was being cowardly by enjoying the privilege of his position and not taking a stronger stand against the regime, or if he was a hero because he protected the interests of art against those of politics, and helped individuals to freedom.
Because it is community theatre, there was a wide range of talent involved. Some of the acting was rather cardboard and stilted, but the actor who played the conductor was riveting. His performance was every bit as good as you might expect from Anthony Hopkins or Jack Nicholson. His stage presence was almost overwhelmingly powerful. He could modify his stage energy with very simple gestures and expressions, and he was able to express every emotion perfectly, from utter dejection to indignant rage. He did all of this in a very convincing German accent.
Anyway, what the play is supposed to make you think about is how you might behave under a reign of terror like the Third Reich. Would you bend and comply? Would you subvert from within? Would you rebel? Would you escape? It’s easy to make predictions now of what we might do under those circumstances, but impossible to know if we would be able to live up to those expectations.