Springtime for Hitler: New York Public Library Surveys the Artistic Outcry against Fascism

American Theatre, April 1993 | Go to article overview

Springtime for Hitler: New York Public Library Surveys the Artistic Outcry against Fascism


In the wake of the breakup of the Communist bloc, national pride increasingly seems to be giving way to xenophobia and, even more dangerous, "ethnic cleansing"--an appropriate historical moment to reconsider the 1930s and the dangers of fascism.

The New York Public Library is doing just that: This spring a series of major exhibitions will examine the artistic outcry against fascism's threat to the arts. Through June 12, the Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center will present "It Can't Happen Here: Anti-Fascist Performance in New York." The exhibition, which takes its title from Sinclair Lewis's 1937 play imagining life in a dictator-ruled United States, focuses on anti-fascist work created by performing artists in New York City in the '30s.

The work of many American playwrights, actors, designers and theatre companies will be featured, including Maxwell Anderson's Gods of the Lightning, written in response to the 1927 execution of Sacco and Vanzetti; Zero Mostel's Professor Magenshimmel routine, in which he satirizes the concept of German racial purity he dubbed "Gelegeneinfachsammelungenatkatvat"; and costume designs by Charles Hawkins for the 1938 Federal Theatre Project production Coriolanus: Autocracy versus Democracy. …

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