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Holocaust play 'The Soap Myth' goes digital

Monday - 1/27/2014, 11:50am  ET

MARK KENNEDY
AP Drama Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- In the spring of 2012, as the off-Broadway run of the Holocaust play "The Soap Myth" was winding down, its director wasn't ready to let go.

Arnold Mittelman, who also is the producing artistic director of the National Jewish Theater, felt "more had to be done with the material because of the power and impact it was having."

So Mittelman decided to film it -- even buying out a performance, "something a producer never does" -- so it could have another life. He credits the playwright, Jeff Cohen, with being open to take his leap of faith.

Now both men are about to see the play take its own digital leap: The recording will become available for streaming and download across the globe on Monday, which is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

"It's kind of the next generation of opportunity for material of this kind," said Mittelman, who co-directed the film version with Ron Kopp and is thrilled at the idea the play may soon be seen on laptops and tablets. "I call it an Anytime Playhouse."

"The Soap Myth" is a tough look at the longstanding notion that the Nazis used the fat of dead Jews to make bars of soap during World War II. The play probes the questions of how history is manufactured and how we understand truth.

It centers on a concentration camp survivor who swears he saw a casket full of the soap bars. He turns to a young reporter after being unable to get Holocaust museum officials to accept his view. They fear that if they accept something that's not 100 percent provable, it will offer ammunition to Holocaust deniers.

The four-person cast captured on film performing the play in an off-Broadway theater were Andi Potamkin, Donald Corren, Dee Pelletier and Greg Mullavey, who played the affable husband in "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman."

The broadcast will be available from Digital Theatre of London, which specializes in putting plays and musicals online for download or streaming for a fee, which starts for as little as $7 a stream. On Monday, the play also will be broadcast on a PBS affiliate in South Florida and the hope is more will sign up.

Mittelman, who points to the current global controversy over some sports stars making an inverted Nazi salute, fears those who wish to teach about the horrors of the Holocaust are in a race against time.

"Within five to a maximum of 15 years, we will have lost the last of the living survivors. So these primary spokespersons for those who died and for the events they witnessed won't be eyewitnesses any longer in person," Mittelman said.

"To me, as a man of the theater, the notion that we can use theater to replace what is in fact irreplaceable is the smallest contribution I think artists can do, but one that we must do."

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Online:

http://www.digitaltheatre.com

http://www.thesoapmyth.com

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Mark Kennedy can be reached at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits


Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.