Yes, those are swastikas at the Egyptian
February 29, 2008
It’s not the illustration of a scantily clad and provocatively posed woman on a poster outside the Egyptian Theatre that prompted a call to the Park City Police Department.
But the poster’s prominently placed Nazi swastika, and other reminders of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich on display at the theatre, made someone upset enough to lodge a complaint with the police, an unexpected report to the authorities about the marketing behind the Egyptian’s showing of "Cabaret," the classic musical set in the Nazi era.
The complaint, which the police received at 2:38 p.m. on Feb. 23, a Saturday, embodies the deep scorn the swastika evokes more than 60 years after Hitler’s defeat, even as it is used to promote a Broadway standard like "Cabaret." The person who contacted the police told dispatchers they wanted to speak to an officer about having the swastikas removed, according to police logs.
The Police Department did not identify the person, and officials released little information about the case. Phil Kirk, a police captain, said he is "mildly surprised" about the complaint.
He said the police do not plan to take action against the Egyptian, saying the Constitution protects the display. The First Amendment’s free-speech protection generally allows symbols like the swastika unless they are displayed in a manner meant to intimidate.
"It’s a freedom-of-speech issue. There’s certainly no laws violated there," Kirk said.
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The "Cabaret" marketing visible from the Main Street sidewalk also includes a replica of a Nazi armband. The musical opened on Feb. 22 and is scheduled to run through April 5. The executive director of the Egyptian Theatre Company, Paul Dorius, said he does not intend to remove the Nazi-themed decorations until the show closes, deciding to keep them on display during March, normally one of the busiest stretches of the ski season.
Dorius said a woman called the Egyptian two or three times on Saturday complaining about the swastikas, and he suspects it was the same person who called the police. The person was "very agitated" and was "yelling at box-office staff," he said. Dorius said the woman told the Egyptian she planned to call the police if the decorations were not removed.
"Take down the poster or face the police," Dorius said as he described the woman’s comments to the Egyptian.
As a marketing program was created for "Cabaret," Dorius said Egyptian leaders were concerned the Nazi decorations would upset some people. He said the Egyptian showed the posters to others, including Jewish people, before they were put up in an effort to test market the "Cabaret" campaign. They supported the displays, he said, adding the Egyptian could not remove the Nazi themes from its promotions since they are central to the musical.
"There was certainly discussion about the role of art and in particular something like this art and how the public would respond to it," he said.
Rabbi: "Cabaret" swastikas ‘utter nonissue’
Temple Har Shalom Rabbi Josh Aaronson said this week the swastikas the Egyptian Theatre Company is using to promote "Cabaret," a musical about the Nazi era, do not disturb him.
In an interview, Aaronson said swastikas have long been used in the marketing of the musical standard. The Park City Police Department recently received a complaint about the swastikas on display outside the Egyptian.
"It seems to me that I recall seeing . . . swastikas used in conjunction with this. It’s keeping with the theme of this play," he said.
He said he received a phone message from a woman complaining of the promotional swastika at about the same time the police were contacted. The woman said in the message a "Cabaret" poster outside the Egyptian that prominently features a swastika offended her, according to Aaronson.
The woman urged him to lodge a complaint, but he did not, he said, explaining "Cabaret" "doesn’t glorify Nazis at all."
"This is different than a bunch of skinheads marching down the street," the rabbi said, calling the "Cabaret" swastikas an "utter nonissue for me."