Thank you for your interest in MARCH. This podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, any of the platforms listed above, or wherever you get your shows). Please subscribe/follow and share your thoughts about MARCH.
From the Playwright
I wrote this play/audio drama podcast as an exploration of how an unknown man of humble origins could seduce and lead one of Europe’s most sophisticated societies – and ultimately the world – into unparalleled horrors.
Many theater professionals and others who have attended workshops and staged readings for MARCH have commented on the timeliness of this historical work given the rise of populist, sometimes demagogic and autocratic politicians in the US and elsewhere.
The setting of the play and time in which it occurs are central to Germany’s embrace of Hitlerism. we have included a brief historical narrative (Setting the Stage for MARCH) that you might find provides worthwhile context before listening to MARCH.
One of our principal goals at CITIZENARTS is to create entertaining, educational presentations that further knowledge and understanding of serious, often complicated current and historical matters. We hope you find MARCH – our first in a coming series of podcasts – fits the bill. Please let us know what you think.
Your interest in MARCH is greatly appreciated.
James I. Gabbe
This podcast is available at Apple Podcasts, any of the platforms listed above, or wherever you get your shows. For your convenience, you can also listen to MARCH by clicking the episode links below.
Listen to MARCH
Setting the Stage for MARCH
Playwright/director Jim Gabbe provides historical context for the political, economic and cultural environment in Germany, 1921 -- a bubbling cauldron of wounded pride, rage and vulnerability that opened the door to a dictatorial, vengeful and murderous demagogue without parallel in history.
Episode One - A Soiree That Changed the Course of History
An intimate soiree that will change the course of history is underway at the Berlin mansion of the Bechsteins, Europe’s famed piano-making family. It is an engagement celebration for a combat war veteran from a distinguished Prussian family and a high-spirited, “modern-thinking” New Yorker. A virtuosic piano player is the evening’s entertainment. Romance blossoms between him and the teenage, strong-willed daughter of the family.
The festive mood unravels with the arrival of the arrogant, volatile editor of an ultra-nationalist, racist newspaper who is also a self-proclaimed poet and playwright.
A surprise appearance is made by a young friend and protégé of the editor -- a highly decorated combat veteran and one-time “bohemian” artist. This is the veteran’s first exposure to the German industrial elite -- who will become enablers of his rise to political power. His shy, awkward, aloof demeanor is met with curiosity by some and dismissive disdain by others. Soon, however, his seductive charm, seeming lack of guile and impassioned declarations about art, politics and culture make him the center of attention.
Episode Two - A Battle That Foretells the World’s Destiny
Tension between the two combat veterans reaches a peak during an imaginary march into the killing fields of war. The veterans share traumatizing memories and together “climb from the trenches,” forming a bond.
But seeds of conflict that will upend the lives of all at the soiree have been sown. A confrontation of great emotional intensity culminates in a fiery battle between decency and evil. It is a battle that foretells what is soon to come for Germany and the world.
About the Cast
We lived so closely with each of these characters during the process of recording MARCH and were impressed and humbled by the professionalism, talent and skills the actors brought to this project. How they came together so well with virtually no rehearsal and in the midst of COVID was a blessing for us. Each has our deep gratitude.
Bridget Gabbe - Elizabeth "Betts" Miller
John L. Shortt - Rudolph "Rudi" Von Bethmann
Giancarlo Herrera - Adolf Hitler
Kenon Veno - Franz Bauer
Jenna Krasowski - Lotte Bechstein
Angela Vitale - Helene Bechstein
Peter Marinos - Dietrich Eckart
Keiju Mori - Pianist for MARCH
Jim Gabbe - Playwright and director
Bridget Gabbe - Producer, co-director, actor
Jeff Lewis - Co-producer and technical director
Jill S. Gabbe - Executive producer
Recording engineer: Keenan Dubois
Assistant engineer: Pablo Morales
Recording Facility: Dubway Studios, NYC
Special thanks to Flux Studios, NYC
MARCH is a production of CITIZENARTS. All rights are reserved.
It’s a July evening in 1921. A soiree is tuning up in the elegant Berlin mansion of the Bechsteins – makers of Europe’s most acclaimed concert piano.
Outside, much of Germany is in political and economic turmoil. Communists. Anarchists and ultra right-wing nationalists battle in the streets. The Treaty of Versailles – pegged the “shameful armistice” – is a rallying cry.
The Versailles treaty had ended world war I three years before. Forged largely by Britain and France reeling from catastrophic human and material loss – the treaty exacted stiff reparations from Germany; greatly diminished its military; and fostered replacement of Kaiser Wilhelm’s monarchy with Germany’s first democratically elected republic – which included the Reichstag – or parliament.
The Treaty of Versailles came at a time when the tide of war was turning in favor of Britain and France – due largely to the arrival of American troops and material. And yet, Germany was still a powerhouse. And many of its military and industrial elite saw the armistice as an act of revenge by Britain and France as opposed to a just peace. Political fringe groups, feeding on rampant discontent, gained in power as their ranks swelled with veterans returning from the front bearing the stigma of defeat and unable to find work.
Adolf Hitler was among those veterans. He was born in rural Austria in 1889. Before the war, he lived in Vienna and Munich in what he described as bohemian poverty. He drew ads and posters and sketched city and pastoral scenes sold in cafes and on the streets. When war broke out, Hitler joined the German army, became a courier and was twice wounded and decorated. After the war, he settled in Munich and took up with anti-communist, anti-Semitic right-wing nationalists. He became known for inflammatory speeches that drew ever-bigger crowds.
On that July evening in 1921, Hitler was the surprise guest at the Bechstein soiree. Though unknown outside of Munich, in a few weeks he would be chairman of the Nazi party and on his way to national fame.
Hitler was brought to the Bechsteins by Dietrich Eckart. Eckart was editor in chief of the Volkischer Beobachter, an ultra-nationalist, virulently anti-Semitic newspaper that became the official Nazi organ. He was heavy drinking, unstable and flamboyant and presented himself as a poet and playwright. Eckart became a mentor to Hitler, influencing his views on Aryan supremacy, racial ideology and German nationalism. He coached Hitler on social etiquette and his Austrian-accented German and introduced him to influential friends. Hitler credited Eckart as the “spiritual founder” of national socialism. In the final sentence of his autobiographical polemic Mein Kampf (my struggle), Hitler said of him: “he was one of the best who devoted his life to the awakening of our people….” Eckart died of a heart attack in 1923.
Hitler’s carefully composed and rehearsed speeches were couched in populist themes of restoring Germany’s economic, military and cultural grandeur. He spoke of delivering the “fatherland” from the evils of the Versailles treaty, eliminating perceived internal threats from Jews, communists, intellectuals, liberal politicians and other “perfidious elements,” and restoring the purity of the Aryan race. These views found increasing acceptance in a time of extreme social and economic disruption and anxiety.
The anti-Semitism espoused by Hitler had not been widely held by Germans in the early 20th century. Jews were more assimilated and less subjected to prejudice in Germany than in most other European countries. Many Jews, especially the more educated and well-off, saw themselves as Germans first and Jews second. They served with honor in the military and were distinguished in many fields. Anti-Semitism, such as it was, tended to be more pronounced in southern Germany, including Munich, which was influenced by anti-Semitism and racial theories rooted in nearby Austria.
By the time Hitler wrote Mein Kampf in 1924, anti-Semitism was a centerpiece of the Nazi platform. The Nazis believed that the Jews – historically scapegoats for all manner of troubles in Europe – were an “alien race” among Germany’s Aryan or Nordic master race. In Nazi propaganda the Jews were sympathetic to the allies and communist Russia during the war, and had manipulated and profited from Germany’s surrender.
The Bechstein soiree is of significant historical consequence. It marked Hitler’s introduction to Germany’s economic elite. The Bechsteins and the many powerful associates they connected to Hitler, played a pivotal role as benefactors in his climb to dictatorship. To quote research by the German historical museum – “Hitler was embraced early on by the elite…. The wives of entrepreneurs vied to be the first to drag Hitler to a social event. As it turned out, Hitler was able to implement his military and extermination objectives because the…economic elites were willing to carry out his war.”
The Bechstein link to Hitler became personal. He was a frequent guest at their country residence near Berchtesgaden, where he built his mountaintop retreat. Helene Bechstein, the family matriarch, was especially enamored of him. For years, she sought to bring Hitler together in marriage with Lotte Bechstein, her daughter.
That Hitler attended the Bechstein soiree is in the historical record. History does not, however, tell us what happened that night.
Here is just a bit of what people have said about MARCH after attending one of several staged readings or hearing the podcast. We would so appreciate your sharing your thoughts on Apple Podcasts or wherever you downloaded MARCH. And please do share with us as well!
I listened to Episodes 1 and 2 of March last evening on my iPhone -- and I give it 5 stars! It was very gripping, chilling, timely, and very informative. MARCH shows how this "working class" man who gobbled up hors d'oeuvres at a fancy soirée also showed a magnetic personality -- which eventually dominated a whole nation with evil... though starting out with the supposed goal of honoring/preserving the "noble" qualities of the Fatherland. Themes which still resonate today! The March podcast can perhaps help to generate discussions to bring people together.
- Tammy (5-star review, via email)
So far, everyone that I’ve recommended MARCH to, and has listened to the podcast has been totally blown-away, even thrilled to tears by the experience!
- John (via email)
I have now had a chance to listen to the introduction and episode one of March. I have enjoyed what I heard. I really love this genre — a work rooted in history, yet also a work that requires a literary imagination. I look forward to listening to the other podcasts and I have signed up for future podcasts.
-Kenneth (via email)
I heard about the podcast MARCH by Citizenarts and listened to it today. In my opinion, it is a play about morality and was mesmerizing. To say it is timely is an understatement. One can hear the echo from the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the twisted justification of Putin's actions to restore the Russian motherland when Adolf Hitler pronounces his life's mission is to reinstate the fatherland. And so it is timely -- but madmen are, unfortunately, timeless. The actors gave a polished performance. I highly recommend this podcast to anyone.
-Marilyn (via email)
Definitely worthwhile reading the background information before listening to MARCH. Builds slowly from a thoughtful first act to a powerful, very dramatic second act. Sadly and infuriatingly, so much of Mr. Gabbe’s play resonates today.
-FrankDist (5-star review, Apple Podcasts)
I listened to the March podcast last night. Great story and production. Lots to talk about. And I love the way you made the [SPOILER REDACTED]. Didn’t see it coming until well into Act II, when I began thinking, “I wonder if…”
-Richard (via email)
Really entertaining. And educational! Having always heard that WW2 was basically an extension of WW1, I was never really aware of any specific details. Realizing this was an historically documented event that noted the presence of perhaps the most notorious evil figure of our time is indeed fascinating. MARCH brings to life that connection between events. Bravo!!
-Greg (via email)
MARCH is simply simply wonderful! Brilliant, daring, powerful, original, deeply moving and important. I hope it will go far; it is worthy.
- John (via Instagram)
MARCH is like a radio play of that era - well done!
- Rich (via email)
Super interesting, resonates in our current time
First theatrical podcast I have listened to and I loved it!! The actors did an amazing job and the story did have some unexpected twists. Themes/agendas/behavior reminiscent of what we have globally experienced in the past few years. I’m still thinking about it.
-RobinaFL (5-star review, Apple Podcasts)
Wow! This one will stick with me
Wasn't sure what to expect, but so glad I gave this a shot. It really takes you on a ride. From light and fun, to tension and suspense, and ultimately to shocking twists and a powerful ending. Obviously well researched and written, and a very talented cast who together pull you in to the room with them. Highly recommended.
-FishCough84 (5-star review, Apple Podcasts)
Excellent and insightful
This is excellent and in-depth analysis of how Hitler was able to rise to power.
-Rwilliams1025 (5-star review, Apple Podcasts)
Like seeing your work up in lights
So dramatic. Important. A story from the past that is relevant today. Well written and directed. The cast is terrific.
-mirabeau2 (5-star review, Apple Podcasts)
MARCH is extraordinary effort.
-Barbara Zinn Krieger, founder of the Vineyard Theatre and New York City Children’s Theater
I truly enjoyed MARCH and found it genuinely compelling. Jim does a great job at creating this world.
-Sarah Stern, co-artistic director of the Vineyard Theatre
MARCH is just amazing and quite wonderful.
-Joe Menino, former co-artistic director, Phoenix Theatre Ensemblea
I thought MARCH was brilliantly written, extremely provocative and a very important piece for today’s times. Your piece was beautifully layered evoking a whole host of feelings. Part of me wants you to call it SEDUCTION. To me, a great theater piece is when it sticks in your soul and you can’t stop thinking and talking about it. That’s where I am right now. I’m full of MARCH. Every one of my senses has been touched and they’re all screaming!
-Andrea York, theater producer
MARCH is impressive in its character development, theatricality and sheer drama — an unusual and remarkable play.
-Jeremy Williams, founding director, Convergences Theatre Collective
We are greatly excited about working on MARCH in the near future.
-Craig Smith, co-founder Phoenix Theatre Ensemble and former principal actor Jean Cocteau Repertory
I read your play on the way home from Christmas – it is splendid and the last part of the play is especially fine.
-Kathleen Chalfant, winner of multiple Obie Awards as well as Drama Desk, Outer Critics and Lucille Lortell awards
I found I wanted to keep reading. I wanted to find out what was going to happen. This is good work.
-Malcolm Tulip, professor, University of Michigan Theatre Department
There is a great deal of interesting material in this play. The characters, the setting, the historical context are all filled with potential. Thank you for the privilege of reading your work.
-Susan Schulman, literary agent who handles dramatic work
MARCH is quite remarkable.
-Shep Sobel, former artistic director, The Pearl Theater
I am impressed that an American wrote dramatically with perception and truthfulness about a subject that is complicated even for Germans.
-Michael Augustin, literary critic at Bremen Radio (Germany)
It’s special. It’s interesting, provocative.
-Barry Green, former member of the boards of Arden Theater Company and Primary Stages