The following is an interview with writer Naomi Brodkin regarding the upcoming launch of the production, Stand Down the March, at the 2018 Hollywood Fringe Festival. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Brodkin about the inspiration behind the production, the cast and crew’s creative process in preparing for the show, what she hopes that audiences will take away from the show’s message, how you can purchase tickets, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: The production, Stand Down the March, will soon be appearing as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival. For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about its premise?
Naomi Brodkin: Stand Down the March is about a college student in her last quarter of senior year still looking for her “thing.” She stumbles into a cause when she discovers her professor is an active Holocaust denier planning a march around campus.
BD: As the writer of the production, what was the inspiration for bringing this story to the stage?
NB: When I was commissioned by Next Theatre of Evanston, they were looking for a piece that was relevant to the area. My mind immediately went to 1977, when neo-Nazis filed for a permit to march in neighboring Skokie, IL, home to a large population of Holocaust survivors (a case which ended up with the Supreme Court granting the neo-Nazis the right to march). The weight of that local history combined with the fact that a Northwestern professor is a Holocaust denier (He published his book on the matter after getting tenure.) formed the basis of this play. I set it in present day on a college campus — my world at the time — and let the facts be the center of the story.
BD: You have a tremendous cast and crew involved with the production! What can you share with us about the creative process in bringing the show to life, from the Next Theatre of Evanston to the Hollywood Fringe Festival?
NB: I’ve been lucky to collaborate with fantastic artists at every step.
Next Theatre commissioned this piece back in 2011, fostered its development over the course of a year with the guidance of my professor Laura Schellhardt, and gave it a staged reading with a cast drawn from Northwestern University students.
In bringing this piece to Hollywood Fringe seven years later, I updated the play to reflect the current political and cultural climate. I had a fantastic creative resource in See What Sticks, a monthly workshop and development lab, and am grateful that they came on as co-producers.
Los Angeles has offered us an amazing wealth of talent to draw upon. My co-producer Matt Pacult is an associate producer on the critically acclaimed show, Documentary Now. Our director Irene Marquette is Kay Cannon’s associate and just rolled off the film, Blockers. Our cast —Taylor Bostwick, Brendan Scannell, Caty Gordon, Charlie McCrakin, and Chris Baker — is made up of actors you’ve seen on TV and web including the shows, AP Bio (McCrackin) and the forthcoming Heathers (Scannell).
And, we still have two Northwestern alum on stage, bringing it all full circle (Scannell and Bostwick)!
BD: What do you hope that audiences will take away from the show?
NB: I hope this play challenges the audience to explore how we know what we know, and highlights the importance of distinguishing evidence-based truth from rationalized belief. That can be difficult, but the fight for truth is a continual obligation, not a one-time push. I hope audience members take with them a sense of the sacrifice of activism, but also the desperate need for it. There are many reasons to stay quiet, but a far greater need to speak out.
This play feels more relevant now than when I wrote it. We are in a full-blown war on Truth, with our governmental executive branch claiming real, tangible facts are “fake news.” This has emboldened a massive surge of intolerance — anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia — resulting in pro-fascist movements like what we saw in Charlottesville.
At the same time, the facts of the Holocaust are fading from our collective memory. In April, the New York Times reported the results of a troubling survey that found many Americans lack basic facts about the Holocaust. The study found 31% of Americans think less than two million Jews were killed. (The correct number is six million.) It also found that 66% of millennials cannot say what Auschwitz was, and more than half of the country wrongly thinks Hitler came to power by force, when, in fact he was elected.
I would also like to give the audience language to defend the facts of the Holocaust against deniers. The Holocaust is the most documented genocide in history — from the victim’s standpoint, from the perpetrator’s standpoint, and from the bystander’s standpoint — the facts have been proven intellectually, legally, and morally. There are no grey areas.
For more facts on the Holocaust and how to combat deniers, please visit:
Holocaust Denial on Trial: https://www.hdot.org/debunking-denial/
The Anti Defamation League: https://www.adl.org/
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: https://www.ushmm.org/
BD: What makes the Hollywood Fringe Festival an ideal venue for Stand Down the March?
NB: The Hollywood Fringe Festival celebrates work that challenges the audience, doesn’t leave them with pat answers. That’s what Stand Down the March does. And the Fringe Festival allows for cross-pollination of ideas — when you dive from show to show, themes or ideas may be illuminated in a different, exciting way. That and the Hollywood Fringe Festival has been such a supportive network that we’ve loved being a part of.
BD: The show will be appearing at the Broadwater Main Stage from June 1-17, 2018. Are there any future plans to perform the show at other venues?
NB: I am currently adapting the piece for screen, and I hope for it to continue to have a life on stage.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell readers who want to learn more about and purchase tickets for Stand Down the March?
NB: This play is not to be missed! It will challenge your thinking about truth vs. belief — a vital skill in this day and age.
Tickets and info are all online at http://hff18.org/5382.