Karski

Statue of Jan Karski, in front of the Polish Consulate, 37th St. and Madison Avenue, NYC

In determining the focus of his second play about resistance, Marc wished to look at Polish resistance and immediately thought of Jan Karski whose compelling book, Story of a Secret State, Marc had read as a boy. Freya von Moltke strongly encouraged Marc in this choice of a subject for his next play, titled simply, Karski. Jan Karski, sometimes referred to as the man who tried to stop the Holocaust, joined the Polish Underground Army at the outset of the German occupation of his country. He served as courier between underground groups in Poland and the government in exile in London. With breathtaking courage and subterfuge, he smuggled himself into the Warsaw ghetto to witness what was happening there and then (in a borrowed Ukranian guard’s uniform) entered a Nazi extermination camp in Eastern Poland. He was so horrified by what he saw that he made the perilous journey across Nazi-occupied Europe to report first-hand to Western leaders in England and in the U.S. His reports were generally received with disbelief as being too outrageous to be true. Karski remained in the U.S., teaching at Georgetown University until his death in 2000.

Playwright/Director’s Statement on “Karski”

Lewis D. Wheeler, actor portraying Karski, 2010; Jan Karski, approximately 1944

My life’s work has been that of a storyteller, specifically, as a playwright. And plays are meant to teach by illuminating man’s relationship to the Gods, to man, and to himself. Working on the “Karski” project meant I had to delve into a history the Soviets tried to hide and a history that was an embarrassment to certain forces on the Allied side of WWII. The job of retrieval of history was, for me, heavy lifting, and transmitting this historical event was cathartic. I want the play to engage the audience and, like Jan Karski, I await the audience’s reactions to his question: “Now that you know the story, what are you going to do about it?”

I wish to personally acknowledge and thank Jan Karski (and his 1944 book, Story of A Secret State) and E. Thomas Wood, who co-authored, with Stanislaw M. Jankowski, Karski: How One Man Tried to Stop the Holocaust (1994). Both books contain an infinite amount of fascinating detail that no play could ever present on stage. I can only hope that my work points us not just to the past, but to a better world ahead.–Marc P. Smith

 

For Production Rights

For inquiries regarding rights to produce either A Journey to Kreisau or Karski, please e-mail Susan L. Smith here.

 

For Classroom Study Purposes Only

(via Facing History and Ourselves), please submit this Letter of Agreement.

 

***Please note:

From the playwright: Both plays were specifically written to be presented in the format of staged readings. Actors are at music stands or lecterns, with scripts in front of them. They are dressed in street clothes, and there are no sets, props, special lighting effects or sound effects. Lights may be focused on one, several, or all the actors, as per the director. Actors may sit, stand, or move about as per the director. It is up to the words of the script and to the actors to create in the minds of the audience the visualization of the characters and events of the times.

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