“Judgment at Nuremberg”
Presented by Tin Roof Theatre
September 26 – October 5, 2014
The Stage at Island Park
In The Stage at Island Park, the production members of Judgment at Nuremberg gather to rehearse. A courtroom is set up on the thrust stage, peopled with judges, lawyers, a jury, and a witness. The lights come up, and the action begins. Despite the mostly empty house, scenes run with the energy gained from an enthralled audience, and for the duration, the past exists firmly within the present.
There are few people who haven’t studied the Holocaust as part of their school curriculum. But with seventy years between those horrors and the present day, how many of us are truly able to understand it as a complex human issue? That’s what audience members are asked to do at Tin Roof Theatre Company’s production of “Judgment at Nuremberg.” And it’s no short order.
The play is about the Nuremberg trials that sought to bring Nazi war criminals to justice after WWII. This play is more than a history lesson, however. Director Karla Underdahl asks audience members to see themselves in the place of the characters and ask themselves what they would have done in that same situation.
It’s easy to separate yourself from such a horrific event. It’s easy to tell yourself that something like this could never happen again. According to actor Bill Dablow (Judge Dan Haywood), however, the same sentiments used in Nazi propaganda are being used today.
As difficult as it may be to believe, that ideology is present even locally.
“We had to take a poster down at one of our establishments because someone drew a Nazi symbol on it,” says Underdahl.
It’s clear why “Judgment at Nuremberg” is an important play. It presents a powerful narrative in a way that meets the three pillars to which Tin Roof works to adhere: it entertains, enriches, and educates audience members in a way that a textbook cannot. Remembering and understanding events like the Holocaust, says actor Brian Fuder (Judge Norris), are the only ways to try to prevent history from repeating itself. As stated by actor Malcolm Thompson (Ernst Janning), “Evil only needs good people to do nothing.”
The play is at the same time fascinating and troubling. All of the crimes on trial were enacted against civilian populations, outside of combat. That, combined with the diversity of characters present, Makes “Judgment at Nuremberg” both difficult to watch and impossible to look away from. At various points throughout the play, real WWII footage plays in the background, adding a sense of continuity and reality to the production.
“Judgment at Nuremberg” takes a human-based view of events, reminding audience members that, at the time of Hitler’s rise to power, the German people were impoverished and starving. Hardship makes any solution look very attractive, and it is important to remember that those who accepted Nazi ideology were not evil; they were real people who suffered to the point of desperation.
This is not the first time that Tin Roof Theatre Company has staged provocative plays. Past seasons have included shows such as “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Inherit the Wind,” and “The Twilight of the Golds.” Made up of local company members and volunteers from the community, Tin Roof Theatre Company always has and will continue to stage complex plays with a passion that will entertain, engage, and educate audiences for years to come.
Image, from left: Reid Strand (Oscar Rolfe), Bill Dablow (Judge Dan Haywood), Brian Fuder (Judge Norris), and Craig Roth (Colonel Parker) rehearse at The Stage at Island Park. Photo by Kris Kerzman.