Thursday August 30, 2012

In May, I saw the opening scenes of "Cassandra Speaks" in a rehearsal hall. The generous energy of the play built around me -- and it was exhilarating.

But tonight I saw the whole play at Shakespeare & Company, and it knocked the breath out of me.

Tod Randolph plays Dorothy Thompson -- journalist in 1920s Vienna and Berlin, international correspondent, the first woman to run a foreign news bureau, the first American journalist kicked out of Germany on Hitler's personal order, and advisor to Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Thompson watched the Nazis rise, and she told people what was happening -- and she told them it didn't have to happen.

Imagine it. If the German moderate political parties in the 1920s had cooperated, Hitler might never have risen to power. He might have remained the "cipher of a man" with the jellyfish grip that Thompson first saw.

Even after he began to rise, when did it become too late to stop the hatred and the terror? If Thomp son's friend Fritz, the investigative reporter, had reached her with the story he said would break Hitler -- and if she had flooded the Amer ican press with it -- could they have forced enough leaders to act while Poland was still free?

No one knows. Fritz never came to the café to give her the story. The newspaper office burned, and the staff were taken away. She saw the building gutted and the presses broken with hammers.


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But listening to the story makes it harder to turn from any situation and say what can I do?

And listening to Tod Randolph, when she speaks low and hard and clear, is enough to make me determined to do what I can.