No matter to which form of media we turn, we are automatically bombarded with horrifying pictures or events. Sooner or later, we start to get used to those kinds of stories that usually involve unacquainted people. However, Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus allows us to build a relationship with its characters and the associated life stories. In contrast to other books, we don’t have to imagine anything in our heads but can see everything in black and white.
Right now, the Collin Theatre Center performs the musical Cabaret that is set during the rise of the Nazi party in Germany. While watching the show, the audience members laugh with and about Cabaret’s Emcee (master of ceremonies). However, in the final scene of the play, he shows up wearing a concentration camp uniform with the Yellow Star and the pink triangle. With this attached triangle, homosexuals were lumped together with rapists and pedophiles. And in the end, he walks off the stage through a gate labelled with the word “Dachau” under supervision of German Nazis. The powerful image of one of the main characters walking into this bright light baffles the audience every night. This reaction accentuates the fact that seeing something evokes a different sphere of emotions than reading does. We got to know this character not only in our imagination but were able to see him with our own eyes.
In another scene of Cabaret, the Emcee dances with a female gorilla proclaiming his love for her, and the song “If You Could See Her” ends with the words “she wouldn’t look Jewish at all.” This shows that Art Spiegelman isn’t the only one who wraps human stories into the shape of animals to communicate the horrors of World War II. Furthermore, it emphasizes the brilliance of this form of analogy.
The citation “life is a cabaret” connects all of these facets: people want to be entertained. If someone is able to entertain his or her audience while including educational aspects and provoking emotional reactions, entertainment reaches a totally different level. And it becomes irrelevant whether this form of entertainment takes place on the stage of a theatre or on blank pages filled with visual life. The importance is to call attention to the past by presenting characters with a name, a visage, and ultimately a voice.