‘Killed him first’: the producer of the play about Solomon Mikhoels – about anti-Semitism and the tragedy of the great actor

February 29, viewers in new Jersey will see the first performance of “the Last role of Solomon Mikhoels” — the story of the arc of creative life, of passionate love and tragic death of the great Jewish actor Solomon Mikhoels. In anticipation of the performance ForumDaily had the opportunity to talk with the producer of the presentation Leonid Kopeykin.

'Его убили первым': продюсер спектакля про Соломона Михоэлса - об антисемитизме и трагедии великого актера

Photo courtesy of the organizers

— You man not theatrical. As far as we know, in the Soviet Union you have received a technical education, worked for many years in the specialty.

— Absolutely. I graduated from the second faculty of the Kuibyshev Aviation Institute. He was among the top five aviation universities in the country. On one stream with me, but on another faculty he studied Oleg Sysuev. A few years later in KuAI — so our Institute was then called, entered and successfully graduated from another very well-known in the modern world — mark Solonin.

— Wonderful company. And after graduation…

— I worked in early in Kuibyshev, at the engine manufacturing plant. Frunze. My parents worked there. Then went to work at the Moscow plant “Banner”. And in the early ‘ 90s, when the defense industry collapsed, had to go to work in private business, and then to move to America.

— What, so simple?

— No of course. I just scheduled the most consistent line that will lead us to the answer to the question: where did the theater?

— So where did the theater?

— I think about 30 years ago. I was in Moscow in business trip, in a bought book collapse novel by Vainer brothers, “the gospel of the Executioner”. I have a flair for books. Of course, the author’s name means a lot. But we know that even the famous author, not every book is a masterpiece. And here the powerful energy beat through the cover. And I was not wrong. And my trip was over. All the space was taken by the book, the rest was on autopilot.

'Его убили первым': продюсер спектакля про Соломона Михоэлса - об антисемитизме и трагедии великого актера

After the premiere. Photo courtesy of the organizers

— Well…

— Wait, now I understand. At first reading, I saw the faces of fictional characters. Looked like real historical characters, I more or less knew. And when I reread the novel, each time I clearly saw how it all happens. In my opinion, “the gospel of the executioner” — is almost ready scenario.

Meaning this book gave a boost to your creative imagination?

— I think so. Everything else was growing like a snowball down a mountain. I read another novel by Vainer of the novels — “the Noose and the stone in the green grass”. And then I plunged into the non-fiction. Began to open unknown details, there was a sense that the logic of events became clear. And there was a clear historical period where the events have earned so that had to lead to a determined result in the first public speech I called Stalinist five-year plan the final solution of the Jewish question in the USSR.

— You’re talking about some historical period?

I’m talking about the period from January 1948 to March 1953. Although anti-Semitic Overture began 1947.

— What has this directly to you?

— The most direct. I was born in a Jewish family. Though assimilated, but in the Hebrew. In the house heard the Yiddish language spoken by many of my close relatives. Parents spoke pure and correct Russian language, so they, and my whole life people would ask the question: are you from Moscow or Leningrad?

— Then all the more puzzling that launched you in the direction of your ethnic origin?

— That has just launched. The world unfolded. From Efraim Sevela has a piece called “the Parrot speaking Yiddish”. And I was a Jew, speaking in Russian. It’s almost the same as at Zhvanetsky : “Yes, I know, but still ….”. Here at MM pause, but everyone knows what word it is necessary to fill. My story. That is, since childhood I knew who I was. I learned quite early about the doctors. I was born in January, 53-year when the hysteria of anti-Semitism spun in full. And lie down the stars differently, and start deportation — this conversation would not exist. Would be nothing in my life was not.

— So you want to say that you have had a personal motive to turn to the theater?

— Exactly. But maybe everything would have stayed inside if not for what is happening now in the world against the Jews. You know, I’m in the last year and a half in various places said and wrote that then read and Mark Corned beef and Leonid Mlechin, and Nikolai Svanidze. And I’m glad. There is not a palm thing, and the fact that people of different age, position, education and nationality, see the situation and assess it is almost the same.

— What does this mean?

— That the effect of vaccination on anti-Semitism, which mankind has introduced 75 years ago, has ended. Everyone thought that the blood and ashes of six million innocent souls will forever protect humanity from the terrible virus of hatred. It turned out that this is one of many illusions. If you don’t act everywhere, openly, using all available and legitimate means, we obtain a new Holocaust. It is not that, in what form. A matter of scale.

— And you do not exaggerate the threat?

— I don’t want to downplay. And then, it is never limited to only Jews. Read the speech of Lord Jonathan sacks. No matter where the epidemic begins. If you don’t fight, it will cover the whole world. It may leak as it was in pre-war Germany or post-war Russia, or in Poland, where almost no Jews left, but anti-Semitism exists still.

And so you turned to the theatre, to Mikhoels?

Yes. Mikhoels — a great personality. In many respects this led to the fact that he was killed first. And you will note the uniqueness of the crime: a well-known customer — Stalin, famous singers — Abakumov and his subordinates, the way the time and place of the murder — known. But a criminal case in court is not passed and no one was tried for this murder. Selected awards and ranks (not at all), planted (not all), shot (not all), but not specifically for this crime and in the aggregate. But mostly for the work under the leadership of Beria. And when I turned to the Russian community of new York with a proposal to talk about what happened in the last five years of Stalin in the USSR, I got a call from the Director Arnold Shvetsov and offered to statement piece from our contemporary, the playwright Zinovy Sagalova “the Last role of Solomon Mikhoels”. In 2019, three times we showed the play in the form of staged readings and all the shows were a great success. Our actors Aleksey Trubetskoy and Valeria Root showed wonderful work. The turn — in late February, the performance in the format of a play with all the decorations that we have developed a wonderful person, Natalia vikhlyaeva, music, light and cozy room, which we got thanks to the help of Dmitry Mikhailov, head of the Russian center in Fairlee, new Jersey. By the way, we invite everyone to visit the Community Center on February 29 at 7 PM and see the play.

'Его убили первым': продюсер спектакля про Соломона Михоэлса - об антисемитизме и трагедии великого актера

Solomon Mikhoels, a frame from the film “Circus”, 1936. Photo: Wikipedia, public domain

— Is that all?

— No of course. Play Sagalova is a work of the Broadway format. Mikhoels — out time, anti — Semitism is an eternal theme. The play can play for years. In addition, we are already working another story Sagalova “don’t believe Mr. Kafka,” and in the project — the third piece is about the beginning of 1953.

— Judging by how you talk about your work, the pace of advancement you are not too high.

— It’s true. I would like to move faster. But there are objective circumstances. We almost only this year opened the company ARLO Art Productions, which will be involved in our projects. Well, the sorest place of all beginnings — funding. We definitely need sponsors, both organizations and simply not indifferent people. We are a non — profit organization. We can only rely on like-minded people, those who knows us personally and trusts us. And we believe in what we’re doing is good and right.

— Thank you, Leonid. We wish you success.

— Thank you for your interest in our activities.

To learn more and to buy a ticket to the show on the Solomon Mikhoels, visit posters ForumDaily.