Ivan Karamazov cannot understand a God who allows the existence of evil. Adolf Hitler quite possibly embodies the most horrific evil imaginable. Lingering together as the last residents of Hell, who will be the last man out? Is it worse to be a morally corrupted person, or one who cannot forgive that person no matter what? Is it possible to forgive without forgetting? Is it possible to forget without forgiving? This sometimes disturbing, sometimes humorous, always poignant new play explores the nature and power of forgiveness.
This play was presented as a staged reading and audience discussion in alternate (non-theatre) spaces throughout Ottawa and the region in May and June of the 2015 season. As this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII and the liberation of concentration camps, this philosophical story with both a fictional character (Ivan) and real life historical figure (Adolf) raises important and potentially controversial questions relevant to all humanity. Immediately following the staged readings was a facilitated discussion with the audience and a panel of artists and guest “experts” about the content and themes of the piece.
“Great job at raising important questions, facilitating dialogue, and bringing together a wonderful community of artists.”
“I quite enjoyed how the actors could evoke our imaginations with their voice alone. I’m really glad I stayed for the panel discussion afterwards. I enjoyed it as much as the play. My take away? A better defined meaning of “forgiveness” and how we journey through a complex set of stages that embody each of our emotions to one final simple act to forgive. Then, when done, this final act becomes the release for our soul. Great play! Great job in its deliverance!”
June 4, 2015 review by Allyson Domanski for Newswest On-line – READ REVIEW
Thursday, May 28 (7:30pm) – Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre, 1233 Wellington Street West, Ottawa, Ontario
Friday, May 29 (7:30pm) – St. Alban’s Church, 454 King Edward Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario
Wednesday, June 17 (7:30pm) – Irene’s Pub, 885 Bank Street, Ottawa, Ontario
Thursday, June 18 (7:30pm) – Pressed, 750 Gladstone Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario
THE ARTISTS & TEAM
FLO ALEXANDER (Production Assistant) | KATHY ARNOLD (Production Photographer) | JASMINE BOWEN (Cast: Sophie) | CHRYSTAL CANN (Associate Producer) | ASHLEY DUNK (Hospitality Assistant) | GEORGE DUTCH (Dramaturge) | JONATHAN HARRIS (Director) | BETSY JOHNSON (Front of House Manager) | JEFF LEFEBVRE (Cast: Ivan Karamazov) | SUSAN MARRINER (Graphics Designer) | SARAH NIEMAN (Stage Manager) | DAVID PLOUFFE (Cast: Adolf Hitler) | MISHELLE STOTT (Hospitality Coordinator)
MESSAGE FROM THE PLAYWRIGHT
In Ivan and Adolph I have attempted to engage the audience in a dialogue about some of the most serious business of life. I have chosen to do it by using one character with historical roots, Adolph Hitler, and another with literary ones, Ivan Karamazov. In order to avoid charges of historical inaccuracy, I have taken these two figures out of historical time and placed them in the realm of the afterlife. What many viewers may find difficult about this play is that I raise the possibility that even Hitler someday in the distant future might be capable of receiving forgiveness. Clearly this raises one of the major dramatic tensions of the play, one that resides not only in Ivan, Hitler’s protagonist in the drama, but also among many of those who come to see the play. Ought the worse man who ever lived receive the joys of salvation and the communion of those he has murdered?
At a literal level, I try to ask in Ivan and Adolph just how long Hell ought to last. In the early rabbinic tradition the answer to that question was an interesting one. The Babylonian Talmud suggests that it ought to be long enough that the sinner comes to genuine contrition. But the Talmud also points out that the mourning prayer, the Kaddish, is only to be said for eleven months after the death of a loved one, because any person seeking forgiveness in the afterlife will by that time have come to full reparation with God. The ancient rabbis do mention special cases, where a soul’s sense of the good is so distorted they may never come to the possibility of forgiveness. But these souls, according to the ancient sages, disappear. They become nonentities devoured by their own spite; they do not languish in Hell for all eternity. For the ancient rabbis, there are no damned souls.
At a more allegorical level, the play raises a couple of the central questions of the serious business of life. Although these questions are raised in a created world, they are also meant to be reflected upon in, and about, this world. These questions are simple to state although they are incredibly difficult to answer with any authority, beyond that of personal moral intuition. Is it worse to be a morally corrupted person, or one who cannot forgive that person no matter what, even if God could? Are there necessary and sufficient conditions for forgiveness? Is contrition one of them? Are there some acts and people who by their very natures might forever remain unworthy of forgiveness? Is it possible to forgive without forgetting? Is it possible to forget without forgiving? I don’t know the answers to these questions. The point of view I have taken will provoke some, I hope it will move others. More importantly, I hope it will cause those whom it provokes to speak and listen to those whom it has moved.
REVEREND DR. ANTHONY BAILEY (May 28 & June 17 presentations) – Anthony was born in Barbados and has lived in a number of Canadian cities for decades. He has lived, studied and worked in Montreal, Vancouver, Ponoka, AB (well OK it’s a small town) and Ottawa. As well, he has also studied, lived and worked abroad in the Kenya, Jamaica and the USA. Dr. Bailey has academic degrees in Social Work, Philosophy of Religion, Theology and Ethics (Doctorate). He has taught part-time at McGill University Theological Colleges and at the Theological College of the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. In addition to his ministry as Lead Minister at Parkdale United Church, Dr. Bailey is also an Intercultural Competence/Racial Justice trainer. He is passionate about issues of peace, justice, poverty, affordable housing, refugee support and reconciliation. He sits on a number of Boards of organizations working in these areas including the Ottawa Mission. He has been awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Lifetime Achievement award for Racial Reconciliation. He cherishes his family -wife and four children – and enjoys reading, good films, diverse music and playing hockey.
ALEXANDRA BENDER (May 28 & 29, June 17 & 18 presentations) – Alexandra Bender is an occasional teacher living in Ottawa. She holds an Undergraduate and a Masters degree in Conflict Studies and Human Rights and has spent some time living and working abroad. The focus of her Masters thesis was inspired by her time and studies in South Africa. It is entitled ‘Radical Forgiveness: The Dynamics of Forgiveness after Culpable Wrongdoing of Intolerable Harm’. It explores the journey of forgiveness that can occur when the perpetrator remains unrepentant and the survivor has suffered an extreme trauma, such as wartime rape. The cases explored include the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, the Apartheid system in South Africa, and the rape camps in Bosnia. With a passion also for dance, theatre and meaningful dialogue, Alexandra is grateful to be collaborating with 9th Hour Theatre Company.
RABBI DR. REUVEN P. BULKA (June 18 presentation) – Rabbi Bulka has been the spiritual leader of Congregation Machzikei Hadas in Ottawa since 1967. He received rabbinic ordination from Rabbi Jacob Joseph Rabbinical Seminary in 1966 and a Ph.D. in Logotherapy from the University of Ottawa in 1971. He also received an honorary Doctorate from Carleton University in 2006. He chairs the Trillium Gift of Life Network, responsible for organ and tissue donation and transplantation in Ontario via the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care and has made 345 blood/platelet donations. He is the Founder and Chair of Ottawa Kindness Week, chairs the Hospice Ottawa West campaign, and is the author of more than 35 books. He hosts Sunday Night with Rabbi Bulka on 580 CFRA in Ottawa. On June 28, 2013, Rabbi Bulka was appointed a member of the Order of Canada, Canada’s highest civilian honour. He is married to Leah (Kalish-Rosenbloom) and together they enjoy children in a multitude of generations. Rabbi Bulka is all for giving and forgiving!
EMILY DUFFIN (May 28 presentation) – Emily is thrilled to be a part of this discussion panel with 9th Hour Theatre Company! She is a graduate of Algonquin College’s Victimology program and has participated in international victimology research. Emily attended Canterbury High School of the Arts and it was theatre that sparked her passion to work in human services. She is passionate about restorative justice and creating safer communities. Emily currently volunteers in an offender reintegration program with CoSA Ottawa (Circles of Support and Accountability) and does public education workshops with the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre. Emily works full time as a front-line staff at an Ottawa homeless shelter. In her spare time she is an avid triathlete, loves cuddling her two dogs, and drinking good wine!
VIOLA THOMAS (May 29 presentation) – Viola originates from the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc nation in Kamloops BC. She attended the same residential school as her mother and seven other siblings, originally built in 1870 and known as the Kamloops Industrial School. Viola has worked diligently to raise public awareness on Canada’s largest class action suit known as the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement, from which the Truth and Reconciliation Commission evolved. She worked with the Commission for seven years prior to joining Reconciliation Canada (an Aboriginal led initiative building meaningful relationships through transformative experiences). She witnessed firsthand the challenges of many to overcome the adversities of unresolved historic, collective and multiple / intergenerational trauma. “A constant affirmation on this path of healing”, says Thomas “has been the heart wrenching expressions of forgiveness juxtaposed with the resilience within First Nation, Inuit and Metis individuals, families, communities.” Viola is a firm believer in utilizing all disciplines of artistic expressions to honor the four races (Red, Black, Yellow, White) of the human family on Mother Earth, to build intercultural bridges of compassion that reflect the beauty of our diversities and nurture respect across Canada.
IVAN KARAMZOV is a fictional character from the novel The Brothers Karamazov by Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky, who also wrote Crime and Punishment. (play adaptation produced by 9th Hour in 2012). Dostoyevsky spent nearly two years writing the novel, which was published as a serial in The Russian Messenger and completed in November of 1880. He died less than four months after its publication, and since, it has been acclaimed as one of the supreme achievements in literature. Ivan Karamazov is a middle son, who from an early age is characterized as being sullen and isolated. His father mentions that he fears Ivan more than Dmitri (Ivan’s brother). Ivan’s relationship with his father and brothers are rather superficial in the beginning. He is almost repulsed by his father, and had no positive affection towards Dmitri. He is a young man depicted as highly intelligent and as a rationalist, disturbed especially by the apparently senseless suffering in the world.
“It’s not God that I don’t accept, only I most respectfully return him the ticket.” (Ivan Karamazov from the novel The Brothers Karamazov)
ADOLF HITLER was born in 1889 in present day Austria, to a practicing Catholic mother and an anticlerical father, but after leaving home, never attended Mass or received the sacraments again. He was the fourth of six children but his older siblings died in infancy. When Adolf was three, his family moved to Germany where eventually he attended a state-owned school. As an eight-year-old, he took singing lessons, sang in the church choir, and even considered becoming a priest. The death of his younger brother deeply affected him as he changed from a confident, outgoing, conscientious student to a morose, detached, sullen boy who constantly fought with his father and teachers. According to some historians, Hitler did not believe in God and privately held Christian ethics in contempt and that any pro-Christian public rhetoric was at odds with his personal beliefs describing Christianity as absurdity and nonsense founded on lies. Adolf Hitler rose to power in German politics as leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazi Party) and was chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945. Hitler is believed to have committed suicide with wife Eva Braun on April 30, 1945, in his Berlin bunker.
“I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator.” (Adolf Hitler from his autobiographical manifesto Mein Kampf, published in 1925)