(This is a transcript of a speech given by Arnold Mittelman to Association of Holocaust Organizations on 1/10/12.)
I wish to thank Bill Shulman, President of the Association of Holocaust Organizations, and member of the National Jewish Theater Foundation/Holocaust Theater Archive Advisory Board, for inviting me to make this presentation to you, his constituents, at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Facts are not the enemy of art, and art is not the enemy of facts. However, humankind often sees everything subjectively, even as we aspire to see the world objectively. Everything we see, touch, and feel is subject to individual interpretation. The late great Italian author Luigi Pirandello’s plays often examine how it is impossible to look at something truly objectively, since we are always looking at things subjectively through our own experience and understanding. And to a great extent, that is the power of theater: it has the ability to be seen individually and understood personally, defying all our collective attempts to view it objectively.
The aesthetic experience of the theatrical audience is to relate, not just to the live performance onstage, but to the reality and sense of each other’s presence. And therefore, although we are seeing the same performance together, we are never actually seeing the same collective performance because we all see the world differently. No wonder one person’s sense that a play is an accurate representation can be thought by another person to be a total misrepresentation. Such is Theater.