In the spring of 2009 I received an unhappy email from Henry Akona, the director of a play of mine called Bad Boy which was then in rehearsal for an off-Broadway showing. The previous year Henry had directed Scenes from a Misunderstanding, my play about a fictitious dispute between Sigmund Freud and Karl Jung, for the off-Broadway Jewish Theater Festival, and he had done a fine job. This time Henry was troubled; he said he had never previously directed a love story and that he wished I had written him a play along very different lines, such as, he said, a midget in a cat suit reciting Spinoza. This idea was irresistible, so I wrote Midget in a Cat Suit Reciting Spinoza. In this play, first produced by the Woodstock Players under my direction, the philosopher Baruch Spinoza has been condemned by the Jewish Fathers of Amsterdam for heresy, and punished by eternal life as the Wandering Jew. 300 years later, Spinoza is sick and tired of life; he has heard of a man called Hitler who wants to eliminate Jews, and he comes to Auschwitz to hand himself over for death at the hands of the SS. Who knows, Spinoza thinks, perhaps it will work? In the play, the painter Salvador Dalí is a friend of Spinoza’s; Dalí is also a friend of Hermann Göring, for whom Dalí once painted—as a favor—a canvas called “Midget in a Cat Suit Reciting Spinoza.” Hearing about his friend Baruch’s impending death, Dalí begs Göring to return the favor and intervene. Reluctant to believe that this impostor is really Spinoza, aged 300, Göring drives to Auschwitz, taking with him his friend Carl Schmitt, the noted Spinoza scholar, who will test the supposed Spinoza to see how well his imposture stands up. Spinoza, however, does not wish to be rescued. He needs to pretend to be a bad Spinoza impostor. The scenes from Midget in a Cat Suit Reciting Spinoza that we shall be reading feature myself as Schmitt; Susan Neiman as Feldmarschall Göring; and Mischa Gabowitsch as Spinoza. I shall be happy to answer questions after our performance, regarding how the play ends.
Carey Harrison was born in London during The Blitz, the Luftwaffe’s bombing onslaught, and as soon as the war ended he was taken to America, where he has lived on and off, for the past 72 years. The off periods have coincided with his British education, at Harrow School and Cambridge, and a teaching post at Essex University. He has subsequently taught Comparative Literature at Cornell, at UC San Diego, at UT Austin, at the Florida Institute of Technology, and for the past 20 years at the City University of New York. He is the author of 16 novels and over 200 plays and scripts for TV, theatre, radio, and film. His work has been shown in 37 countries, and translated into 13 languages. His novels have won him a Fellowship at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. He is Professor of Humor at CUNY’s Brooklyn College and a member of the Einstein Forum’s Board of Advisors.