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This fall examples of fiction and theater inspired by the personal histories of their Jewish creators will be in the news.

American audiences are eagerly awaiting the October Broadway opening of “Leopoldstadt” (the name of Vienna’s historic Jewish section), legendary British playwright Sir Tom Stoppard’s award-winning drama, which made its debut at London’s Wyndam’s Theatre in 2020. Every seat in the house was sold during its run during that year and in 2021, with a hiatus caused by COVID-19. A once-opulent drawing room furnishes the setting for this narrative concerning a family of elite assimilated Viennese Jews, and the gradual but cataclysmic changes in their lives that they experience before and after World War II. In what the 82-year-old Stoppard has called his final work, argument and debate are the elements that reveal the emotional aspects of the play, as usual, but notably absent is his glittering lingual erudition and the high-flown, lightning-quick repartee, best appreciated when the script is read beforehand. What seems to be at the heart of the play is Stoppard himself and his need to pinpoint one piece of a complex puzzle that contributes to his unique perception of the world. In the end, his persona and accomplishments can only be partially explained by his biography: a child refugee from Czechoslovakia who would go on to study at boarding schools in India and England and learn to love and manipulate a multiplicity of languages. Like most geniuses, Stoppard possesses something which defies understanding, as a creator of drama and comedy that represents perhaps the most original theatrical voice of the last six decades.

Tom Stoppard

Born in 1937, Stoppard achieved fame with the production of his first play, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” at the

1966 Edinburgh Festival. Including translations and adaptations of dramas by Ferenc Molnár, Arthur Schnitzler, Anton Chekov and others, his well-known works for stage and film include “Shakespeare in Love,” “The Real Inspector Hound” and “Arcadia.”

A name known to millions worldwide before and after World War II, the novelist Lion Feuchtwanger (1884-1958) envisioned the rise of Nazism in all its horrible aspects as early as 1920. An early collaborator of Bertold Brecht, the German-born author rose to fame during the culturally fecund Weimar era, when one of his many novels, the 1925 “Jew Suss,” a sympathetic treatment of the life of a Jewish financier who was tortured and killed for criminal activities, was translated into more than 17 languages. Immigrating to France in 1933, he was later interned there, but escaped and eventually settled in the United States, assisted by journalist Varian Fry and his cohorts. Recognized here as the voice of prophesy who refuted the appeasement policies of European governments in the early Nazi years, he continued his successful career as a writer, speaker and advocate for the State of Israel.

Lion Feuchtwanger

In October, for the first time in over two decades, Feuchtwanger’s novel “The Oppermanns: A Novel” is newly edited and translated by playwright Joshua Cohen, who describes it as “one of the last masterpieces of German Jewish culture,” and will be released by McNally Editions. Published in 1934, a year after Hitler began his campaign of persecution, it tells the story of a critic and a surgeon, brothers from Berlin—whose confidence that their elevated status would shield their families, rapidly crumbles. During this early time, Feuchtwanger perceived what would turn out to be the exact narrative of the Holocaust (as did other journalists) and the choice to be made: leave—or face destruction.

And lastly, Theater J in Washington, D.C. will offer a December production of “The Pianist of Wilesden Lane,” produced by theater companies several times in the past decade. This play with music was written and continues to be performed by Mona Golabek, who based her one-person show on the experiences of her mother, pianist Lisa Jura. Set in Vienna and London, Golabek, as Jura, strides to make her concert debut despite the war and the privations of its aftermath. Integral to the script is the music of noted classical composers including Beethoven, Rachmaninoff and others, which she performs onstage.

Cheryl Kempler is an art and music specialist who works in the B’nai B’rith International Curatorial Office and writes about history and Jewish culture for B’nai B’rith Magazine. To view some of her additional content, click here.