Friday, January 17, 2014

SSU's 'Kafka in Tel Aviv' in theater throwdown

Submitted for your approval, a story so strange – Kafkaesque, if you will – that it becomes art, or could, in the right hands, and, since the story involves old Franz himself, focusing on the legal and moral ownership of work that he insisted be burned when he checked out, well, that’s one more delicious dimension of irony, of absurdity on an already strange, Byzantine story. Imagine, the papers, the literary legacy of one of the world’s most celebrated writers landing in the hands of a "cat lady" in Tel Aviv, once a secretary and lover of Kafka confidant Max Brod, now an old woman living with between 40 and 100 cats at any given time, who is cashing in, selling the work for hundreds of thousands of dollars, without a thought of scholarship, of legacy, who won’t let anyone see the work – all while the governments of Israel and Germany are locked in a furious legal battle, almost as odd as that faced by Josef K., over who owns these priceless lost works – Israel because Kafka was a Jewish writer, Germany because, while he lived his whole life in Prague, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, because he wrote in German.

Yes, a complex story raising some interesting questions, like who, ultimately, owns a work of art and whether society has a legal or moral right to snatch it out of someone’s hands, however it got there. A strange story, even before Salem State University theater professor Peter Sampieri, who calls himself "an armchair Kafka fanatic," put his own spin on the story, adding a character, Nina Stern, an American blogger obsessed by Kafka, who travels from the bright lights of the Big Apple to what is described as "the shadowy streets of Tel Aviv," to see the papers — and a collection of puppets who read fresh English translations of fragments and the lesser-known works by Mr. Metamorphosis in what becomes the play "Kafka in Tel Aviv."

Read more here.

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