What I love about theatre is how it can inform you, challenge you and enlighten you. I felt all of these things whilst watching ‘The Soap Myth’ by Jeff Cohen. If you have read my earlier post about digitaltheatre.com you may have taken my advice and seen this advertised.
For those of you who don’t know, there are accounts of the Nazi’s making soap out of human fat. This play looks at how this piece of history was and is presented. It centres on a man who lived through a concentration camp and fights for the stories of the soap to be a part of the history. This play looks at what history actually is and how future generations will see certain events.
Throughout the play you both sympathise with the protagonist Milton Saltzman because you become emotionally invested and want his story to be told, yet can still understand the historians perspective. I was also made to feel uncomfortable and disgusted after being fooled into sympathising with a holocaust denier. Which is great because Cohen manages to illustrate to the audience how easily it can be to be manipulated.
The concept of history has always been an interest of mine. How do we decide what is valid and what is not? How is information selected, chosen to remain for the benefit of future generations? Is it all down to who the source was? Or if a paper trails is needed, due to a lack of substantial evidence a piece of the story could be disregarded and forgotten. A reoccurring thought throughout the play is that of witnessing dying out; and once that happens all we have are what the historians have gathered.
In addition to the incredibly gripping writing, the performance was beautifully staged so as every scene change was almost non existent. I was engaged throughout and the quick pace from scene to scene illustrated the constant struggle which Mr Saltzman went through in the effort to have his story told.
This play got me interested in something which I had never heard of before and brought more arguments and ideas toward a topic I have had interest in for a while. After watching I was eager to know more about the real people that inspired the story as well as the actual soap myths.
The performance that I watched was filmed in March, 2012 by the National Jewish Theater Foundation, off Broadway at the Roundabout Theater’s Harold & Mimi Steinberg Center in the Black Box Theater. Directed by Arnold Mittelman, with co direction for the filming from Ron Kopp. The actors who feature were, Greg Mullavey, Andi Potamkin, Donald Corren and Dee Pelletier.